Donor moment of insight: annual report lists

I am ever so thankful for a donor moment of insight.

When I’m working with a client on a strategic planning project, with their board and staff we routinely interview a selected group of stakeholders. They might be colleagues, political or government leaders, relevant businesses, funders, donors, volunteers … anyone with special insight. And it’s super great when two or more of those categories overlap.

A few days after a recent interview, I received a follow up email from a community leader-donor. They remembered something else they wanted me to share.

The donor had received the latest annual report. Like most of these reports, it included a list of donors. In this list, the organization had made a special effort to note donors who had given continuously.

Unfortunately, what was recognition for some was a rebuke for another. My donor felt hurt by not being included in this list. You see, this donor had been a donor for many long years. But, due to a few years of tight finances, there was a gap in their giving.

They were no less loyal. They started giving again when their finances improved. But that didn’t seem to matter. And now they were reconsidering future giving.

I completely sympathized. I feel this way whenever my college sends out its annual report with the same listing. Though I’ve been giving for many many years, I’ve missed a few now and then. Once I gave two gifts in the same fiscal year which knocked me out of the continuous recognition.

Think! What are you trying to accomplish with that public list of donors?

In this case, the intent was to reward some donors and inspire others to similar continuity. But it unexpectedly caused hurt feelings on the part of another long time donor.

Penelope Burk documents a number of concerns learned from donor research in her book Donor-Centered Fundraising. One that stands out are listings by gift range. A small donor might be making a huge stretch to give what they do. Yet they will never seem as valuable as those big donors for whom the gift that got them top recognition might be a drop in the bucket.

As the folks who care most about our donors, we’ll do better if we set aside convention and think of more creative ways to recognize and acknowledge our donors. The Audubon Society of Rhode Island’s complimentary membership is a good illustration of the return when you put donor needs first.

So, using that donor moment of insight shared above, here’s a simple solution:

¬†“Donor Since….”

 

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