What Should We Give Donors?

Donors give us financial gifts – both big and small.  But what do we give them in return?  More and more I see organizations providing donors with transactional gimmicks.  Make a gift, get a calendar.  Make a gift, get a ticket to an event.  Make a gift, get a magazine subscription.

Not only do such approaches cost money to the organization, I believe they send the wrong message – that giving is a transaction in which the donor receives something tangible (usually gimmicky) in return.

And yes, there is a transactional element to giving.  Donors should expect to receive something in return for their gifts.  But what should we be giving them?  What could we give them that would be a sincere and authentic expression of our gratitude?  What could we give them that would increase the likelihood of their continued giving?  What could we give them that would remind them of the reason they gave us a gift in the first place?

The answer is “an experience.”  I’ve seen many tears at events where scholarship donors and scholarship recipients met for the first time face to face.  That’s a gift that moves people.  I’ve watched donors puff up with pride when invited to speak in front of students, children, or others about their areas of expertise, their businesses, and their philanthropy.  Those experiences strengthen relationships.

But creating experiences for our donors isn’t only reserved for major gift donors.  What about the consecutive year annual fund donor?  What kinds of experiences can we provide the masses of donors who provide us smaller but much needed annual support?   I would suggest you start with the initial gift thank you.   Does it reach the donor prior to their canceled check?  Is it actually signed by someone or is a signature dropped in?  And who exactly has signed it?  The CEO?  A student?  A volunteer?

We can create experiences for all of our donors if we simply ask, “what should we give our donors?”


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