Creative Recognition

October 11, 2019

In my 20-plus years of fundraising, I have never had a donor tell me that they were thanked too often. As a matter of fact, I have never hadĀ anybody in any situationĀ tell me that they were thanked too often. That can’t be your starting block for recognition.

A small thank you goes a long way, as the adage goes. A thank you can take many forms — it need not be a donor’s name in 4-foot letters on the side of a building. Sometimes, a genuine, hand-written thank you note from a client or board member is just what is needed for the donor to deepen their connection with your charity.

In my travels, I have seen lots of donor thank-you’s adorning corporate waiting rooms. They can take the form of citations, or framed photos or even generic ‘membership’ certificates. The donor companies love to display these in their waiting room, further emphasizing to the world-at-large that they are good corporate citizens and choose to invest in community.

Being Creative

I have had the privilege of seeing (and being part of) some pretty unique recognition items. Like a shadow box that included sponsor T’s, photos and other ‘swag’ presented to a title corporate sponsor. I have also seen a ‘ghost’ bike wheel created for the lead sponsor of a cycling event. If it is unique, it is more likely to be out on display. With everybody having a smartphone, making quick thank-you videos is also something that is easily done.

One of the suppliers that I have dealt with also happens to be a great donor (and sponsor). With an aging building, their company is constantly at one of our facilities to address some building shortfalls. We thought that it would be a fun idea to have a ‘reserved’ parking sign for them, identifying them as great supporters. It was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but you get the point.

I must, however, caution charities on these unique recognition pieces. If you are spending lots of money on them, please stop — that is not why the donor is supporting you. In my travels, I came across two very well-heeled donors. One of them has a closet in his office filled to the brim of ‘chachkes that many organizations give to me’. Another one has a magnificent art collection in his Park Avenue New York office. He told me that this was the artwork given to him as a thank-you by charities that his wife wouldn’t let into the house. Both are true stories and both make me pause and check my ‘creative recognition’ to make sure that it aligns with the donor’s values.

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians — take a moment and realize just how much you have to be thankful for — including being in such a great profession.

Until next week.