I too thought of the "complete this offer for a free iPad!" type of thing, so that's not a good association. We would just need to carefully avoid that kind of impression.
Yes i am *VERY* keen to avoid any of this gimmicky crap.. Which is why i continue to emphasize that we are just brainstorming here.
One key thing we have to consider is that we don't want people to donate for the wrong reasons -- we want donors to be proud to support the site and feel good about it and try to bring some of them into the community as active participants. We don't want to go down a road where people are donating the smallest amounts possible out of resentment.. But that's one of the things i'm hoping we can improve (not worsen) about how DC encourages donations now.
I do think these discussions are rightfully focused on people who don't want to (and won't) participate in the site in any way (read or post on forum, etc.). Because that is the tough nut to crack.
As for the people who are active -- they are us -- and we can always think up and implement things that improve the site and forum for us; it's fun to add forum features and have events that we enjoy, and it's easy for us to talk amongst ourselves to figure out what to do.
But the people who have no interest and will not participate represent 99% plus of users, and these are the people who could be handled better.