Major Donor Game Plan: Recognition

Do you love me or do you not… you told me once, but I forgot! How do you say thanks and really, really mean it? Recognition is a very important part to all your donors but especially your mega and major donors. A very simple but appropriate thank you is all it takes to acknowledge the gift, show your appreciation, drill deeper in the relationship, and prepare the way for the next opportunity to ask. It’s not manipulative, it’s not syrupy, but surprisingly rare. If the gift is a multi-year gift (some are given monthly or quarterly) you have many opportunities to say thanks. If it’s a one-time gift you must thank your donor well to create an opportunity for the next gift. You are not saying thank you to get the next gift, but not saying thank you might keep you from another gift.

Many development departments are very proficient at donor research, relationship building, and even requesting. Unfortunately, many organizations spend more energy on receiving the gift and little or no effort on showing appreciation for the gift. How do we thank, recognize, and love our donors? Here are some simple tips:

Golden Rule
How do you want to be treated? Seriously, if you had $1,000 dollars or $1,000,000 to give to your favorite ministry, how would you want to be recognized? By mail, e-mail, phone, zoom, in person, by a board member, all the above, some of the above, or none of the above? Think about your personal giving experiences. In what meaningful way you have been recognized in the past? There you go, now go do it!

Don’t Be Late
Be timely, very timely in recognizing a ministry partner. Like milk, thank yous have an expiration date! When the check or the wire transfer comes through pick up the phone and call them. Yes, I said call them—not text, or e-mail, unless that is their preference. Even if it is, pick up the phone and say thanks. There is nothing like personally saying thank you. Make it a ministry call to share your mission, vision, and core values. Tell them what they will accomplish with their gift. Most of all, share your love and appreciation for them.  Share your heart with them. Oh, BTW do it quickly, don’t wait 3-5 days, a week, or even a month. Carpe Diem—seize the moment and say thanks NOW!

Words of Wisdom
The executive director of one of the largest foundations in West Michigan said, “Pat, if an organization does not thank us in a timely manner, they are all done receiving funds from our foundation. We are testing the character and integrity of the organization on not just receiving the gift but how they respond after the gift is given.” It’s just common sense to say thanks in an appropriate way. It’s not difficult. Make it your priority.

How Many Times is Too Many?
A friend of mine who fundraises for a large medical facility said they often thanked their key donors seven times. WOWIZER, is that too much? The thanks came from a variety of team members: the university president, the medical center CEO, heads of various departments (cardiology, orthopedics, etc.), physicians, the VP of Advancement, the major gift officer assigned to the donor, and a patient who had benefited from their gift. You make the call. Too much? Too little? Or about right. Ergonomics is the study of fit. How you recognize donors needs to fit your culture, your staffing limits, your CEO involvement. Make it fit for you.

Closing Thoughts
Will Rogers said, “Common sense ain’t common.” Recognition plans will vary. Everyone has their own ideas. Here are some commonsense ideas:

·  Develop a well-conceived plan to say thanks to every donor.

·  Ask yourself how you would want to be recognized—that’s a great start.

·  Be timely. Show your appreciation while the gift is still fresh in their mind.

·  Use multiple thankers from a variety of sources in your organization.

·  Utilize a variety of methods: call, zoom, hand-written note is very effective, text, e-mail, or a small gift of appreciation.

Sit down with your team today and develop a Thank You Plan. Put actions to your words then watch God do amazing things in your donors’ lives, hearts, and checkbooks!


About the Author: Pat McLaughlin President/Founder – Pat started The Timothy Group in 1990 to serve Christian ministries as they raise money to advance their missions. TTG has assisted more 1,800 Christian organizations around the world with capital, annual, and endowment campaigns. More than 25,000 of Pat’s books, Major Donor Game Plan, The C Factor: The Common Cure for your Capital Campaign Conundrums, and Haggai & Friends have helped fundraisers understand the art and science of major donor engagement. Pat makes more than one hundred major donor visits annually and provides counsel to multiple capital campaigns.

1 Comment
  • D. Clay Perkins
    Posted at 11:42h, 11 March Reply

    Savvy. Spot on! I have been doing philanthropy ministry for decades now … Pat is the man. He can help you inspire and facilitate biblical stewardship and generosity.

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