Charities advised to swap T-shirts for loyalty schemes

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on July 7, 2005

Charities advised to swap T-shirts for loyalty schemes

Non-profit organisations in the USA are being advised by marketing efficiency firm Think360 to stop issuing regular donors with free T-shirts and to start using supporter loyalty programmes instead.

Although there is a good argument that the widely popular idea of a charity T-shirt provides ongoing public exposure to the cause, Think360's CEO, Alan Elias, believes that more benefit can be gained by providing loyalty scheme benefits for loyal donors instead.

Ineffective shirts? According to Elias, each year non-profit organisations across the USA hand out millions of T-shirts as charity incentives at a cost of around US$2 each. "Much of that money could be saved by switching to loyalty programmes," Elias explained.

Elias, who spent twelve years working with the American Red Cross has even received awards for his accomplishments in charity innovation, including one given directly by former Red Cross leader Elizabeth Dole for coordinating the world's largest university blood drive. But it was a trap as well, as Elias told us: "I was one of the leaders that fell into the trap of buying T-shirts to increase blood donations, yet I always believed there was a better way."

Blood donor test Elias tested his new theory by creating a 'Linking the Donor' reward programme through which donors received information on how and where their blood was actually used. In the three major cities in which he tested the scheme, almost all (87%) of participants indicated that they would be likely to donate more often if the organisation continued to provide them with information connecting them to the outcome of an actual patient.

The discovery was significant enough in Elias' view for him to leave the American Red Cross ten years ago to found Think360, to provide promotional products to non-profit organisations. Eventually THINKLoyalty was launched with Active Response Media to offer non-profit supporters rewards for accomplishing desired results, and then giving them the chance to relinquish their gifts. The THINKLoyalty system also has the ability to link participants with information that explains how their donations have helped patients, recipients or end-user organisations.

Public response According to Elias, 40% of the hundreds of thousands of participants in the Leukaemia & Lymphoma Society's Light the Night, National Down Syndrome Society's Buddy Walk and United Blood Services' HEROES for Life programmes have since chosen to let non-profits keep their products in exchange for ongoing communication linking them to the final recipients.

"Providing the participant with relevant information is more powerful than an instant reward," concluded Elias. "This kind of programme enables nonprofits to get away from costly and ineffective rewards like T-shirts, and ineffective and expensive marketing tools like paid advertising and direct mail." Through the THINKLoyalty system, non-profit organisations can send interactive and trackable targeted text and video messages directly to participants.

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