The Conversation: Bad news for charities: those calendars and address labels don’t pay off

You’ve almost certainly opened an envelope containing a solicitation from a nonprofit and discovered a set of mailing labels with your name and address on them. Or a few bookmarks with the group’s branding. Or, just as likely, the offer of a mug, a tote bag or some other gift in exchange for your donation.

I get a few of these “tokens of appreciation,” known as donor premiums, every month. About 60% of American nonprofit solicitations for support include them upfront or dangle them as a reward for giving.

But why do charities give stuff away when they ask you for money? I am an economist who studies altruism and philanthropy.

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