Why I’m Not a Fan of Welcome Packs

Published by Margaux Smith on

JNTU-EXPRESS-Welcome‘Hate’ would be too strong a word. I really just think we can all do so much better.

I know every charity that sends a welcome pack to new donors has the best of intentions. We really are so grateful that someone has made the choice to give to the cause we fight so hard for – to care about what we care about.

We want to show them how much we appreciate that generosity, and make them feel special and valued.

But I would argue that sending a big package of ‘stuff’ with glossy brochures and freemiums after they’ve made their gift does the exact opposite.

I went to the post office a few days ago to pick up a package and was surprised to find that it was a large package from a charity I’d just become a regular giver to. I was surprised, because I’d actually forgotten that I’d done that, but it was lovely to hear from them. I’d signed up for a regular gift online because this particular charity does great work in an area I’m very passionate about.

My mood changed when I got the package home and opened it. It contained a short welcome letter that thanked and welcomed me briefly, but was more about the current campaigns that the charity runs and how important they are. Attached, was a monthly donor membership card, which I have no idea what I’m meant to do with. The whole thing just had a form-letter feel to it.

But of course, that’s not what my eye went to first. Or even second or third. Because there was a tote bag. And a notepad with a magnet on the back. And four glossy A5 leaflets about different campaigns. And an extra thick, glossy magazine with ‘Supporter Update’ written on the front. And even three bumper stickers (not very useful since I don’t own a car).


Now, I’m a fundraiser who works with, and loves, successful premium acquisition packs. I know how fantastic ‘stuff’ in the pack can be to acquire new donors. And as a fundraiser, I know that this welcome pack probably only cost the charity in question about $2. But I’m still a human being, and I’ll tell you – my first gut instinct was, ‘They spent my entire first month’s gift on this stupid pack, and I don’t really feel thanked at all.’

It didn’t matter that the stuff in it was nice, or how much I care about the cause. All that hit me was the perceived value. Donors don’t know how much it cost, but they will take a guess based on what they feel these things are worth. They aren’t taking the economies of scale into account because they only see one pack in front of them.

For acquisition, this perceived value can actually make them more likely to give a gift or to increase their gift amount. Some people (and fundraisers) dislike premium acquisition because of this high perceived value, but it works. We see that time and time again with our clients. But for a thank you? We’re not trying to get a response. We’re just trying to make the donor feel fantastic. And I don’t think this is the best way to do it.

You’ll get complaints. But do almost anything in fundraising and you’ll get complaints, so that’s not what bothers me. Most people will shrug it off and keep going with their giving if the cause means enough to them. I’m certainly not going to cancel.

What concerns me is that this welcome pack did not accomplish what the charity should have been trying to do. I don’t feel personally appreciated, I don’t feel like I’ve made an impact right away, I don’t feel any closer to the organization, and I certainly don’t feel surprised or delighted.

What if, instead of this pack of ‘stuff’, I was sent a hand-stamped, hand-addressed envelope that looked like it could have been from my grandfather. And inside, was a personal, heartfelt letter that told me a story about the difference my gifts were going to make because of the decision I’d made to give.

For new donors who’ve made a cash gift to a cold appeal, remind them of the story that moved them to send their gift in the first place and share a happy update from the case study. If you’re going to put anything besides the letter in your envelope, make it a beautiful photo of that case study’s smiling face. Reaffirm those feelings that inspired your new donor to join you.

And for new donors like me who made an unsolicited gift, do the same but share an incredible story of one beneficiary that they haven’t heard before. Make them feel that they’ve made the best decision in the world by giving to your charity.

I gave online, which also gives extra clues as to how responsive I’ll be through the mail (not very). But that doesn’t mean I don’t love getting something in the post. Who doesn’t?! These thank you and welcome touch points can be a wonderful way to show your donor some unexpected love and start building their loyalty. So make them really count.

It’s not rocket science – it’s storytelling. It works in appeals, it works in video, it works in acquisition, it works on the street; it just works. And that certainly includes the welcome process.

So please, show your new donor the love.

And then spend your energy motivating them to give again. The sooner you get that second gift the right way (with another moving story), the closer you are to having a donor for life.

Margaux Smith

Margaux is currently living in Sydney, Australia, working closely with incredible clients at Flat Earth Direct, creating digital and direct mail campaigns with them to help change the world. This Canadian fundraiser misses her compatriots in London and Toronto, where she learned almost everything she knows, but is enjoying the Australian sunshine a little too much to leave any time soon.


Pamela Grow · February 16, 2015 at 14:34

Love this, Margaux. I’ve been a proponent of welcome packs for a number of years now. But I certainly agree wholeheartedly with you: when donor love is missing, nothing works. Not your appeal, not your donor newsletter, not your welcome pack.

Karen E. Osborne · February 16, 2015 at 15:01

I too a big supporter of welcome packs. As you point out, like everything we do, it is how we do it that matters. Your ideas are great. Find a way to make a welcome phone call. Ask what inspired the gift and who else to thank. Tell the donor to look for the welcome packet. Call back to see what he or she thought. And don’t forget returning donors. They need a welcome back!

Beth Ann Locke · February 16, 2015 at 18:15

I love everything about this post! About how to treat donors, about how a personal touch can make all the difference, and about how even when working with many donors, fundraisers can do a bit better. I believe a personal touch does so much to build stronger ties between donors and the cause they support. Thanks for sharing!

Christine · February 16, 2015 at 19:38

I whole-heartedly agree! Thanks for sharing!

Jill Ruchel · February 16, 2015 at 22:45

I agree Margaux. A personal letter that really sounds like it was meant for me has far more impact.

Pamela Grow · February 17, 2015 at 01:08

This wasn’t exactly a ‘welcome kit’ but I thought you’d appreciate the human touch behind this piece, a year-end thank you to a monthly donor: http://www.pamelagrow.com/5518/whats-mailbox-donor-love-looks-like/

    Joe Matassino · March 1, 2015 at 20:51

    Pamela, thanks for sharing this. Excellent letter.

Tony Elischer · February 17, 2015 at 12:52

Like everyone else this post really captures so much of the feeling we fail to express around the so called ‘welcome process’. We are so obsessed by technique and Sector learning that we forget the two simple drivers of any form of welcome: people to people & think relationships with real people; what happened to simplicity?!?

Emily Huddleston · February 17, 2015 at 16:29

This was a great post. Loved everything in it.

Matthew Sherrington · February 20, 2015 at 19:44

I’m a fan of welcome packs, done right. (See my blog here on asking and thanking). Love your rant Margaux, but it seems aimed more at thoughtless premiums. My time in the US confirmed my own loathing for them – they might ‘work’ tactically short term, but do little to build valuable long-term engagement and commitment.

Simona Biancu · February 25, 2015 at 10:48

Fully agree with your view, Margaux!
I have just had a discussion about such points with the President of an NGO I am working with: I don’t particularly like Welcome packs, to tell the truth (even if I have adopted them in a number of situations). And not because I think about “they have spent all my money to send such luxury packs” but, most of all, because I perceive them as a sort of a switch to an economic-rewarded level.
I mean that I donate to a cause because I feel it close to my worldview, and I would be considered special for the organization for this reason. A heart-felt, handwritten “thank you” (and stories, as well) that makes me feel part of the cause is all I would need.
I really appreciated this post and the comments above: welcome packs are among my present focuses , and discussing about them is helpful in many ways!

reuben · January 18, 2016 at 10:57

Couldn’t agree more Margaux. I’m a massive fan of ‘welcoming’ but it’s a process not a pack. And we also need to be aware of presuming a relationship, when what we have as evidence is an action (a gift), often impulsive one.

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