Forget “recognition”; think “relationship”

publication date: Feb 1, 2013
author/source: Janet Gadeski

Are you running out of ways to recognize donors? Not likely, according to the latest Philanthropic Trends Quarterly from KCI. Charities across Canada told its editorial team that private recognition, not public acknowledgement, is what matters most to their donors.

That sounds like good news if all your walls are covered with plaques (or you don’t have walls at all). Private recognition at its best tells the donor during every interaction with your charity that you know what she’s done for your mission. And public recognition, even though it’s a secondary motivation, can take many forms besides plaques, walls and printed materials.

Making the “thank you” last

The quarterly highlights terrific examples of recognition techniques that build long-term relationships.

  • Your thank-you letters are specific and personal;
  • You recognize cumulative giving as well as the latest gift;
  • If you sell tickets, your ordering system prompts the seller to acknowledge the person as a donor;
  • Your donor relations model focuses on donors rather than activities;
  • You offer engagement experiences such as telephone town halls, behind-the scenes-tours, watching new equipment in action, or access to your program staff, artists or musicians;
  • You recognize donors via social media, pushing the recognition out to them rather than making them come to you;
  • You weave donor recognition into your organization’s mission.

In short, the new model for donor recognition is not built on specific tactics deployed only as a short-term response to a gift. Instead, says KCI head Marnie Spears, it’s “one of a number of tools to build better relationships with our donors and bring them closer to us.”

The newest issue of Philanthropic Trends Quarterly is available here.

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