Fundraising News: Amnesty discontinues pen packs

Annie Kelly

Amnesty UK has cut pen packs from its supporter recruitment campaigns in an admission that the day of the charity pen "could be numbered".

Pen packs have been the lynchpin of Amnesty UK's recruitment strategy for more than 10 years. But the organisation says that its last two campaigns using branded pens have, instead of registering the usual response rates, lost the organisation money.

Joel Voysey, supporter recruitment manager at Amnesty UK, said the results came as a surprise, but that he feels it's time to move on and diversify into other recruitment channels.

"The pen packs simply aren't paying for themselves any more, and it's no longer viable for us to use them," said Voysey. "If people are starting to see promotional incentives as a gimmick, or view the Amnesty pens with mixed feelings, then it's not worth our while continuing to use them."

Amnesty UK has used pen packs for a considerable period of time. Not only did they raise response to recruitment campaigns, but they also have a direct connection to the cause through Amnesty's long tradition of encouraging people to fight human-rights injustice through petition-signing and letter-writing.

"There's nothing wrong with the technique, but I think the challenge is for us to look at new ways to attract supporters," said Voysey. "Charities have to admit that the day of the charity pen pack could be numbered."

He added that Amnesty UK's decision to abandon pen packs coincides with new Royal Mail plans to introduce size-based pricing from September 2005, where charities could be charged for sending mail that falls outside the standard envelope size.

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