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You probably know that donor recognition is important, but do you know why? Donor relationships are similar to personal relationships. Hopefully, your personal relationships are mutually beneficial and full of sincere appreciation. You would avoid investing in relationships that are one-sided or touch-and-go.

The same concept applies to your donor relationships—they are a two-way street. You should seize every opportunity to recognize your charitable donors. These individuals have chosen to give to your organization instead of investing elsewhere. Acknowledge their gift, and make them aware of your appreciation. 

In this guide, we will cover some memorable donor recognition ideas for you to implement. Scroll through to choose an idea that works best for you.

  1. Sincere donor thank you letters
  2. Donor recognition plaques or walls
  3. Brick fundraisers
  4. Donor appreciation events
  5. Personal phone calls
  6. Donor satisfaction surveys
  7. Gifts

With so many ways to say thank you, it can be overwhelming to know which idea to implement. Bloomerang’s donor appreciation guide suggests maintaining an updated donor database and referring to your budget to guide your decision-making process.

1. Sincere donor thank you letters

Sincerely-written donor thank you letters will never go out of style! Keep your letters personal and to the point. Donors tend to pick up on generic, pre-made templates. Use information from your donor management system (also known as a CRM) to personalize the thank you letters with donors’ names and donation amounts.

Prompt thank you letters carry more of a punch when it comes to gratitude. That’s why a donor management system with a built-in email platform can be a fantastic resource. Your donor CRM can automatically send out donor appreciation emails within a few minutes or hours after donors give. You can keep these emails short and include effective images like your volunteer team at work or an infographic of a financial goal reached.

Connect each donor’s gift to direct impact. Mention the tangible goals your team was able to achieve with donors’ support. Phrases like “your donation helped feed X local families in need” or “build X new wells” helps the donor understand how much their gift makes a difference. 

Whenever possible use donor-centered language. “You” or “we” are great options to make your donor feel like a part of your team. Emphasize the importance of their role often. Overall, genuine donor thank you letters are prompt, personal, and specific.

2. Donor recognition plaques or walls

For donors who do not mind being openly recognized, donor recognition walls or plaques are meaningful investments. A donor recognition wall is a physical installation that lists all of the names of individuals who donated to a specific campaign. A donor recognition plaque can list just one donor’s name or all the donors to a campaign. 

Donor recognition plaques and walls can offer design flexibility. You can display different levels of recognition such as a “silver donor” or “gold donor.” Just make sure to reference your donor data management system to match each donor with the appropriate plaque type. 

If designing a donor wall feels like a big task to complete, consider hiring a third party to arrange and install it. Cleanly organized and well-designed donor walls are showstopping pieces, and can boost your organization’s overall brand image

If you do not have access to a physical office space, virtual donor recognition walls work just as well. These donor walls list donors’ names virtually and are often accessible through a nonprofit’s website. Because they live online, set reminders to update them frequently. 

3. Brick fundraisers

Brick fundraisers connect donor recognition with fundraising. During this type of fundraiser, individual bricks are sold for a set amount to donors. The donor’s name is engraved on the brick or on a plate set into the brick. Then, the bricks are used to build a lasting structure such as a garden wall, walkway, path, or section of a building.

Brick fundraisers require a bit of planning to pull off. You could either add extra bricks to a pre-made structure or build a new one. Next, you’ll need to select a company and brainstorm an architectural design. Once you’ve found a design partner, send out promotional materials to potential supporters. 

Imagine a breathtaking garden made completely of donor-specific bricks. You could also add donor plaques to benches within the area. Water fountains, bright flowers, or creative landscaping could complete the look. With regular maintenance and open access, a donor garden can be a beautiful end goal of a brick fundraiser.

4. Donor appreciation event

Interact with donors during appreciation events to build relationships and kickstart the major gift fundraising process with potential major donors. These events can be as big as a glamorous gala or as small as a one-on-one lunch. Determine which event type works best for you by examining your budget and donor type.

According to Bloomerang, major donors can be easily identified by applying the three C’s– depth of connection to your organization, concern for your cause, and capacity to give. If a donor consistently matches with the three C’s, consider honoring them with a special planned appreciation event.

Networking events are additional opportunities for your organization to get to know different team members personally. A dinner with volunteers, donors, and beneficiaries can offer a full picture of your organization’s mission in action. What better way to connect donors to the heart of your organization?

Specific menu details and locations should be planned with your donors in mind. What sort of food would they prefer? Where are they traveling from? If a major donor is present, consider taking time to mention your appreciation in a sincere speech. 

5. Personal phone calls

Calling donors can make your appreciation efforts feel much more personal. Instead of planned text messaging and overflowing inboxes, phone calls are in the here and now. A personal phone call presses pause on demanding schedules to focus on the importance of gratitude.

Plus, did you know that phone calls can have a major impact on the likelihood of second and third gifts? In fact, donors who received more than one phone call within 90 days of their first donation had almost a 60% donor retention rate.

Use your donor data to comprise a list of specifics to mention during your phone call. This list could include a mention of the exact amount your donor gave, how the gift specifically impacted your mission, and how long the donor has been giving. If a donor does not pick up, be ready to leave a personal voicemail. 

6. Donor satisfaction surveys

Why not let your donors tell you about their experience? Donor satisfaction surveys are a great resource to discover your donors’ opinions on your organization. These surveys should be anonymous to encourage honest feedback.

You can send donor satisfaction surveys to gather their input on:

  • The donation process. How long did it take? If donors gave online, were there any technical issues that need to be resolved? Would they like more clarification on how their donation is being used?
  • Events. Gather feedback on event specifics like vendors, speakers, music, and location. What was the donor’s overall impression of the event? Would they attend a similar event in the future? 
  • Your communication efforts. A donor satisfaction survey will tell you if a donor feels overwhelmed or underwhelmed with the frequency of your communication efforts. They can also rank various communication methods (phone calls, emails, newsletters, or text messages).
  • Your fundraising campaign themes. Include a history of your previous fundraising campaigns and ask which ones your donors liked best. Options like Giving Tuesday, walk-a-thons, or brick fundraisers can all be mentioned.

Including a variety of questions adds to the value of your feedback. Multiple choice, true or false, scale questions, and open-ended questions are all options. However you structure your survey, remember to be respectful of your donors’ time. It should not take longer than five to ten minutes to complete.

7. Gifts

Donor gifts are fabulous alternatives to showcase your appreciation. Holidays, after a donor’s first contribution, and donor anniversaries are all opportunities for your organization to send gifts. A donor’s major life events such as a wedding or the birth of a child or grandchild can also be appropriate times to express your gratitude. Just be sure to match the tone of the gift to the occasion. 

Ideas for donor gifts include:

  • Branded merchandise. Your merchandise can be practical or fun. Journals, calendars, hoodies, or coffee mugs are memorable gifts. Branded merchandise also works as a promotional tool for your organization, so keeping a consistent logo on your gifts is essential. 
  • Gift basket. Fruit baskets, dessert baskets, and even charcuterie baskets are all the rage nowadays! This basket can easily include a handwritten thank you note as well.
  • Gift cards. Where do your donors like to shop? The great thing about gift cards is that they are highly customizable. Choose an amount and a store that fits your budget and your donor preferences.

Compare your donor data to your gift options and match each donor to a gift type. For example, first-time donors might love a warm, branded blanket while ongoing donors might appreciate an edible fruit basket. Decide ahead of time to streamline your gift-giving process.

Recognize your donors often. There are tons of ways to say thank you, but the important part is to choose methods that appeal to your donors. Everyone likes to feel appreciated for their generosity, so use these ideas to come up with an effective gratitude strategy today!

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