Acknowledging and Recognizing Donor Loyalty

Recently, I read my colleague Laura Worcester’s post on this site “Discover the Sally Fields in Your Database.”  As I was reading the post, I started thinking about interesting ways that I have seen organizations celebrate their donors and immediately thought of three examples:

  • First, the post reminded me of the Honor Roll that I saw in the magazine from the school where I received one of my graduate degrees (for those of you who are curious, Metropolitan College at Boston University).  Like many organizations that publish an Honor Roll, this one set a ‘floor’ of $1,000 – meaning, it only listed Leadership Donors who made contributions of $1,000 or more during the previous fiscal year.  However, what set this Honor Roll apart from most of the others that I have seen is that it included different symbols to recognize – or call out – specific types of donors at the $1,000+ level.  A star indicated five-year consecutive giving, a star in a circle represented first-time donors, a square represented parents, and so on.  The Honor Roll also recognized young alums, whose leadership giving is set on a sliding scale based on graduation year, in a separate list. 
  • In another example, a summer theatre near my house publishes their entire donor file, listing each donor from the smallest to the largest, in each program.  Donors who have given more than in previous years – even by just one dollar – are denoted by a change in font, such as using bold or italics.  This celebrates loyalty by focusing on both consecutive years giving and encourages donors to continually increase their contributions.  I know I like to see that my name stands out from the rest!
  • I have also seen organizations that are heavily volunteer-based list a Volunteer Honor Roll in their Annual Fund Report right next to their Donor Honor Roll.  Rather than celebrating loyalty by dollars contributed, these Volunteer Honor Rolls celebrate loyalty by hours contributed over the course of the year.

All three of the examples I quickly thought of centered on the published Honor Roll or Annual Fund Report.  They provide excellent and public ways to recognize your donors in a simple and cost effective format.  But, they are also incredibly passive. 

How about more engaged and active mechanisms of celebrating loyalty?  Wouldn’t it get the donor’s attention a bit more to pick up the phone and give the donor a call?  Or, maybe even extend a lunch invitation?  To steal a line from Laura’s article: “what are you going to do about it” once you notice?   Or, perhaps, “what are you already doing about it?”  I would love to hear about some of the creative and meaningful loyalty programs that your organization has in place.  Please post to this site or email me directly at [email protected].

* Melissa Bank Stepno is a consultant for Target Analytics. You may reach her at [email protected].