Sunday, November 18, 2007

New column every Monday: "The Fundraising Guru"--Nov. 18, 2007

Keep everyone on your ‘donor recognition ladder’
by Stephen L. Goldstein, consultant and author of 30 Days to Successful Fundraising

Successful fundraisers know that they are not just in the business of finding generous donors, but of genuinely thanking them. You can judge a nonprofit by the way it shows how much it appreciates every gift, large or small—from cash to gifts-in-kind and volunteers’ time.

Every nonprofit needs a well-runged recognition ladder so potential donors know up front how they will be honored: their name on a wall, in a publication, or on the front of a building; VIP treatment at special functions; nothing but a mention in your annual report.

Turn your donor ladder into a marketing tool that helps you raise more money. After you close the books on your fiscal year, list every donation you’ve received in one impactful, not overly expensive, publication. Include pictures of donors and their testimonials about how good they feel supporting your organization. Show compelling photos with captions telling how well donations are being used. Under each giving category and before contributors’ names, mention the good things donations make possible.

Include a gifts-in-kind category. A donation of a computer or piano saves your having to spend money and is as worthy of recognition as cash. Create a category to credit volunteers’ contributed time. People who answer your phones and donate their services save you money. Put an hourly dollar value on volunteer time and recognize people accordingly.Most contributors are pleased to be honored. But, afraid of being inundated with solicitations, some don’t want any recognition. Give them the option of being anonymous.

No good deed goes unpunished. As hard as you may try to make your donor list accurate, inevitably, names will be omitted, garbled, and miscategorized. One fundraiser told me that she always intentionally had her name botched in her “Donor Honor Roll.” That way, when contributors complained of errors, she could apologize and (she thought) lessen their ire by showing that it even happened to her. It’s far better to be compulsive, contrite, and prepared to publish corrections.

Create a meaningful recognition ladder. The more generously you say “Thank You” to everyone, the higher they’ll be inspired to climb it.

E-mail your comments and questions to Stephen Goldstein at