Major Gift Development

Major Giving Recognition

Welcome to the final episode in my 8-part series on major gift development. We have covered a lot of territory during this discussion – so if you are newer to the conversation, feel free to review my posts on prospect identification, cultivation, preparing for the ask, the solicitation meeting, and strong stewardship practices. We are now at the fun part! Last week we talked about stewardship as the process by which we thank our donors, recognize their efforts, build relationships and engender donor loyalty. Today I want to zero in on the recognition aspect of stewardship.

Because capital campaigns are typically focused on the building or renovation of a facility, recognition usually involves an opportunity to acknowledge major gifts with plaques, either individually on rooms and large spaces or on a group donor wall. Annual campaigns may or may not involve permanent physical recognition. Recognition policies are typically determined by the organization’s development committee and then approved by the board. They should also be documented within the organization’s gift acceptance policy. The important piece to note is that every organization needs a stewardship plan for its donors, and it’s likely that this plan or program will involve some forms of recognition.

One very common way to recognize and thank annual donors is to include major donors in a giving society. Because philanthropy is about building relationships with donors, giving societies create strong relationships because they create a stakeholder community, communicate the feeling that major donors are viewed as organizational “insiders”, and demonstrate appreciation. The benefits you offer to your society members matter less than the fact that you are showing appreciation, communicating respect, and (oftentimes) creating public recognition of their support.

The website of the National Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) states that, “Associating specific and increasing benefits or demonstrations of thanks with each level of giving in the society can help retain members and charitable dollars.” Wondering what benefits to offer to your members? Think about what benefits your donors might appreciate most: are they interested in intimate donor appreciation events, VIP seating at your public events, insider briefings, a society newsletter, organizational “swag”, visits with your president or CEO, special tours or on-site visits? Some organizations offer a donor wall for major gifts to the annual campaign and change out the names each year on a document that can easily be replaced in a beautiful frame. It might make sense to poll a small number of major donors to get their feedback on what resonates as a benefit.

For capital or endowment efforts, it is customary to include a menu of naming opportunities within the organization’s campaign support materials, listing opportunities to name (or underwrite the cost of) a particular room, space, outdoor area or program. Many capital campaigns include within their budgets an endowment to cover the cost of continued maintenance on the project or even a program to be offered within the new facility, and these opportunities can be listed on the naming menu as well. Be sure you have included the cost of recognition in your project budget, as donor walls can be expensive to build!

But not all recognition efforts need be expensive. Organizations can come up with incredibly creative, low-cost means by which to thank and recognize their donors. Please share your thoughts and ideas below… and in the mean time enjoy our freebie and please, contact us with any questions about your campaign.

I hope you have enjoyed this series on major gift development, and I look forward to your feedback. I will be back in two weeks talking about one of my favorite subjects – the development of a campaign plan. Stay tuned!