Donor Recognition: Appealing and Gratifying to the Donor

Vol. 12 No. 3


When choosing your means of thanking contributors to your fund-raising campaigns, keep each major donor’s identity and interests in mind. Public recognition is a secondary motivation for many donors. Peer identification can be seen as a positive business or social by-product, and you may find many “public” settings in which to perform continued recognition.

Many schools choose to thank their top donors with a special dinner. Consider holding this event in the home of one of your benefactors. Not only is there a desirable ambiance in this setting, but it is usually far less expensive than renting a club or restaurant. If your goal is to generate scholarship funds, you might hold a dinner solely for the major donors and the student recipients.

Ask a major donor to represent the school in a community forum that he/she might find personally appealing, such as Rotary, Lions, or Kiwanis clubs, or to take part in commencement ceremonies. Perhaps invite the donor to the school to share expertise or experiences with your students. You might also bring some of your key donors to a Board meeting to be introduced and thanked.

Be extremely careful in maintaining your database, collecting and making changes throughout the year. And when a donation comes in, be sensitive to the signature on the check. Overlooking that a spouse has died or that a couple has divorced when making your solicitation or acknowledgment can result in terrible embarrassment.

Also, be sensitive to those who request that their gifts be anonymous. Maintain this anonymity not only in your donor lists, but also in conversation and verbal reports. For that occasional contributor who says, “Don’t spend any of the school’s money thankingme,” offer to make a donation in his/her name to an agency that benefits from your school’s community service program.

Recognize the diversity in your giving constituencies. As much as possible, when providing recognition gifts, collect detailed information about the specific donors and tailor the gift accordingly. These individuals will know you have taken extra pains to explore their interests and will be gratified by the attention.

For more on ISM’s advice concerning fund raising, see the Collection Key ISM Development Theory (which is free for Gold Consortium members).

Additional ISM articles of interest
ISM Monthly Update for Development Directors Vol. 9 No. 5 All Kinds of Thank Yous
ISM Monthly Update for Development Directors Vol. 10 No. 1 An Effective “Thank You” Strategy to Generate Donations

Additional ISM articles of interest for Gold Consortium members
I&P Vol. 32 No. 10 Seven Gift Planning Tips for a Small Development Office

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