The proper recognition of donors by an organization is both a responsibility and a privilege. A donor who has invested in the work of the charity deserves to be recognized. Stewardship requires the organization to acknowledge a donor’s contribution for their partnership in advancing the cause of the nonprofit. While there are other benefits from purposeful recognition – including possible future donations – recognizing a donor for their current gift is a priority.
In all things regarding financial development, recognition must be donor driven. Good development officers know a donor’s desire for recognition. Development officers who fail to listen to the donor and provide inappropriate or unwanted recognition can jeopardize the relationship and thereby, the organization. Just as a request for financial support is tailored to each donor, so should gift acknowledgment. Donor preferences tend to fall on a scale from private recognition, or anonymity, to a major public announcement of the gift.
Such acknowledgment doesn’t have to be expensive. Most donors do not want a significant amount of money spent on recognition. Recognition should uniquely represent the organization and be meaningful to the donor. For supporters of a camp’s geology educational program at a quarry, the camp used quarry rock to make special recognition pieces for major donors. The same camp made recognition pieces using horseshoes for supporters of its equestrian program. Such tailored gifts leave an impression and provide donors a lasting reminder of their good work.
If a donor allows public acknowledgment of the gift, that is a privilege for the organization. Publicly recognizing a donor can add credibility to an organization and encourage community members to lend their support. When donors share their reason for making a gift, it’s also an opportunity to teach and inform the public about the nonprofit and its current goals.
Organizations need to express appreciation to their donors in a meaningful way while highlighting their mission. A flexible recognition plan will meet the needs of both the donor and the organization.