So, your campaign is a big hit. Your leaders and volunteers continue their hard work in securing gifts, donors are fulfilling commitments and an end-of-the campaign celebration is in the works. Now you can start planning that ribbon-cutting ceremony, right? Well, to quote former college football coach Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friend.” Before you can even begin to smile over your success, you must take time to recognize those responsible for putting you in this enviable position.
One cannot understate the importance of capital campaign donor recognition. Simply put: people like to hear the words thank you. And of course, they should receive praise, regardless of the depth of their giving. Each donor willingly sacrificed because they believe in your mission and, by offering thanks, you remind them of the significant role they play in your success.
The countless ways of recognizing a donor begin with the most elementary of responses: the thank-you letter. Leaders should never overlook the importance of delivering a basic, well-written message of thanks. Provide praise in a timely manner, within 24-48 hours of receiving a gift. A thank-you letter mailed a week or longer after receiving a decision loses the effectiveness of one shared at the appropriate time. Don’t forget to add a personal touch to typed letters by offering a few written words of appreciation.
A customary practice among nonprofits is the use of donor recognition walls. Permanent displays featuring the names of campaign donors or those supporting annual appeals come in a variety of options. Wall plaques and displays, donor “trees” and electronic presentations — scrolling names on television monitors — are among the most typical. Brick walkways, featuring the engraved name of the donors, is another permanent display honoring supporters.
Semiannual or annual events, such as dinners and luncheons, provide a wonderful opportunity to bring your donors together for a show of gratitude. Most donors will appreciate the chance to mingle and network with others supporting your cause.
Other opportunities include social media, especially Facebook, which also provides another avenue to promote your cause. Create and post a short video message directed at constituents. A verbal message shared with compassion will receive more than a few “likes” while friends share it with others. Hand-written — think crayons as the writing tool — thank-you notes from young children can be a big hit where appropriate. And don’t hesitate to invite your donors to enjoy a tour of your facilities so they see up close the impact of their giving.
A word of warning, remember that with any public display, do your homework. Make certain the donor agrees to list his or her name publicly and honor anonymous requests. Also, be certain to receive the correct listing and spelling of each donor. You don’t want to embarrass the family or your organization with an incorrect listing.
Successful nonprofits continue to identify creative ways to recognize their donors and never lose sight of the importance of offering a gracious thank you.
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