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The Importance of Donor Recognition

Charlotte Sutherland of Dalhousie University, and Sarah Rothwell of North York General Hospital Foundation told CAGP delegates that there are very good reasons to make donor recognition a high priority.

"We all love our donors", said Rothwell, "but unfortunately we often fail to let them know." In fact, while tax benefits and recognition are usually well down the list of items that motivate donors, you'll never go wrong by giving them recognition. Always remember, she said, that a major or planned gift is only the beginning of a relationship that should continue throughout the donor's lifetime. Dropping a donor may mean that they'll drop you.

Recognition costs money, of course. Be creative, especially with your wealthy donors, but be sensitive and extremely careful that your recognition program never creates awkward situations that embarrass the donor. If you handle it well, Rothwell points out, the benefits of recognition can be substantial:

  • It often leads to further gifts or transforms a deferred gift into a current major gift.

  • It may inspire others to make gifts.

  • It helps keep your records up to date and identifies problems concerning the donor of which you may be unaware.

  • It helps assure the certainty of gifts that donors plan to make by bequest or other revocable vehicle.

  • It's a good way to involve key people in your organization in the development program in a positive, enjoyable, constructive way.

  • It provides an opportunity to work with prospective donors to ensure that the gift will benefit your organization and meet the donor's needs.

  • It will help avoid potential problems in the wording of will bequests.

  • It displays your organization's gratitude and emphasizes good stewardship.

    Rothwell and Sutherland stressed the fact that stewardship is an essential part of the fundraising cycle. It covers the entire relationship between donor and organization. Sutherland addressed the question of saying "Thank You", pointing out that it should always be sincere, appropriate to your organization, and respectful of the donor's wishes. The process is limited only by your creativity, and may include:

  • "Thank You" letters sent out promptly upon receipt of a gift, or on notification of your organization's inclusion in the donor's estate planning. The letter should come from the CEO of the organization on the receipt of a significant gift, and it may be appropriate for other key people in the organization to thank the donor. If necessary, write it for them.

  • Named Gift Opportunities recognize a donor by carrying on his/her name in perpetuity, associated with a cause he or she supported during his/her lifetime. This gives the donor and their family a special link to your organization. Spread the word about the fundraising potential of the Named Gift System throughout your organization.

  • Recognition Clubs can be specifically created for Planned Givers or Major Donors.

  • Token items or services may be given as a form of recognition, and are often associated with membership in a Recognition Club. Examples include certificates, pins, invitations to special events.

  • Plaques and Lists in a prominent place provide permanent recognition. Publicizing names of donors in an annual report or other widely circulated publication can also be effective. However, be sure to get the donor's permission before proceeding, and ensure that the name is spelled correctly and is in the form they requested.

  • Public Announcements and testimonial ads featuring a donor profile appeal to some donors.

  • Personal visits, phone calls, and mailed items are often appreciated, particularly if they are located at a distance from your institution. Regular contact can come through special occasion greeting cards, newsletters, annual reports, and news clippings. All help maintain the important link between the donor and your organization.


    This artcile can be read in it's entirety at Charity Village. Com


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