5 Ways to Recognize Your Donors at Every Level Without Going Overboard

April 2, 2018

Relying on the kindness of strangers for anything can be a tricky tightrope to cross, but there are a few constants that are always worth adhering to when making the most of others’ generosity: namely, always be forthcoming with your appreciation.

For smaller businesses, recognizing donors properly can present a challenge. Greater limits on staffing, resources, and (of course) funds mean that acknowledgments are probably going to be more restrained. There’s also a line to tiptoe here: you want to do something “big” enough that makes your donors feel appreciated, but not something so big that it overshadows the point of their giving in the first place.

This week, we’re going to look at some ways that you can give credit to benefactors sincerely and efficiently. First, however, let’s summarize a few general concepts that you should always keep in mind, regardless of what approach you ultimately choose to take:

Be personal.

Assuming you aren’t getting in touch with several thousand people at a time, going the extra mile to speak to benefactors as people instead of numbers will mean more than a basic form letter or five-second handshake ever will. People are smart, and they’ll know if they’re getting a copy-and-pasted response.

Be mindful.

Public recognition may seem like an ideal way to go most of the time, but be sure to find out whether a donor wants to be acknowledged in such an open way first. Many do not want to be singled out, whether it be due to shyness, the desire to remain humble, simple modesty, or some other factor. Don’t put contributors on the spot if they don’t want to be.

Be transparent.

This takes more time than a one-off “thank you” at the time of donation, but is a good approach for retaining backers. Give them regular updates via letter or email on how their money and/or time has impacted lives. So much controversy surrounds “charities” misappropriating funds and cheating everyone involved for the sake of their own greed. Don’t let your business be accused of something similar!

Be moderate.

You don’t want to be too flashy about your rewards, because doing too much will make donors question where their money is going. Even a cursory Google search will pull up numerous complaints about charities that spend very little of their money on actually furthering their goals, and instead devote most of it to giving lavish gifts and throwing elaborate congratulatory events.

Be fair.

No matter how much is being given and what the donor may be getting in return, the most vital thing you can do is acknowledge all gifts equally. Contributors typically give as much as they can, and just how much that amount is will vary a lot depending on every person’s financial situation: something that you probably don’t know about in detail.

Now, let’s talk about ideas. Always remember that it’s not the physical items that matter most, but the thought and the message behind them. That said, a bit of glitter and shine never hurts, so long as it’s paired with something meaningful! With that in mind, let’s look at some ways to recognize your donors in as effective and considerate a way as possible.

1. Letters

Almost annoyingly simple, but a standard for a reason. This is where you can truly make a connection with your patrons: a basic form letter with a different name slapped on isn’t going to feel good for anyone. Showing that you’ve taken the time to address them one-on-one will mean more than any flashy gesture ever will, and can be easily paired with something like a pin or a keychain.

2. Social Media Highlights

Everybody is on some social site or another, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest. And your company is assumedly already on some of those, so it should be easy enough to incorporate shout-outs into your regular Internet activity. Tags, photos, videos, links: even with a character limit, you can incorporate all kinds of additional content into these posts with little (if any) additional costs, from behind-the-scenes looks at how money is being spent to direct conversation with your donors. And it’s all public, which means more attention for your business!

3. Gifts and Tokens

From the traditional trophy to promotional items like bumper stickers and mugs, there are plenty of ways to show appreciation without being overly spendy or showy. And because they can all be personalized to some degree, you’ll be able to give every backer something unique.

4. A Memorable Experience

This can an organized event like a gala or party, but be sure to keep it fairly simple. Also consider something a bit less traditional: a personal tour of your organization, for instance, or a Q&A and dinner. These are not only unique but also give you a chance to be open about your company’s practices and reassure donors that their money is being put to good use.

5. Community Memorial

This option is a good blend of public recognition and gift-giving: a donor tree, mural, or similar installation with contributors’ names can spruce up your workplace while giving those honored a feeling of permanence in their involvement. Similarly, consider naming various elements of your outreach in honor of your backers. It doesn’t have to be quite so big as an entire building: small things, like an office room or page on your website, can be more than enough.

Whatever approach you take, always keep your cause at the forefront. That should be what is most important to you and, presumably, your donors. It may not apply to much these days, but in this case, it really is the thought that (mostly) counts. Bigger is not always better, and human connection is always the ideal!

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