Series: Donor Recognition Program Design


Editor’s note: The article below is the fourth in a series highlighting the importance of strategy in building a strong donor recognition program. Click here to view the series in its entirety.

There are so many ways to thank a donor that it’s hard to know where to begin.

Donor recognition activities can be private or public, temporary or permanent, and reside at the organization or with the donor. As always, it’s important that each activity aligns with your overall strategy, and that you adjust your tactics as needed. But in general, a strong donor recognition strategy is built on a few key tactics:

  • Mass communication (with personalization whenever possible)

  • Customized communications (such as individually crafted letters and phone calls)

  • Tours or meetings with leaders, researchers, or service providers

  • Events (large or small)    

Each of those tactics has a specific purpose.

For instance, a letter or phone call is a good way to establish or continue the personal connection between the organization and the donor. Meetings and tours are a sign of inclusion and enhance the sense of behind-the-scenes access. And events are about networking. 

Regardless of the type, every donor recognition activity should be structured so that it provides benefits to the organization, as well as to the donor. Obviously, it would be wrong to take advantage of the donor or violate a request for anonymity. Maximizing every investment, however, is an obligation of good stewardship, and it can be done tastefully, with no compromise to the donor experience.

That means, when a donor is meeting with a key leader at the organization, consider documenting the conversation as a blog post, complete with photography and quotes from the donor. 

When a student writes an especially good letter of thanks to the sponsor of his or her scholarship, repurpose that language as a pull quote in the next scholarship solicitation. 

When you give donors organizational swag or tchotchkes, include a branded tag with the most up-to-date talking points about the organization. 

Check out the chart below for a full breakdown of various donor recognition tactics and methods. For a PDF of this chart, click here.


Written By Anne Manner-McLarty

Anne Manner-McLarty is the managing editor of the Journal of Donor Relations and Stewardship. She founded Heurista in 2011, a leading resource for consulting specific to donor relations and stewardship, with particular expertise in the donor recognition program design and implementation.