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Recognizing Your Donors

July 26, 2017
We all know the importance of saying “thank you.” After learning to not eat things off the ground and not touch a hot stove, it’s one of the first, basic lessons we learn as children. And in the non-profit fundraising world, we know that saying thank you to donors is important, as well; it gives them the chance to form a bond with an organization or cause, hopefully insuring that the supporters will help when called upon.

But donors can sometimes be a wider category than we think. Yes, those who respond to mail solicitations or buy gala tickets and bid on auction items fall into that classification, but to limit the term to just them leaves out many supporters, including some that you’d be hard-pressed to get along without.

We’ve seen the power of “thank you” first hand in our experience of working with non-profits to help raise money with our fundraising auction travel packages. Just to make sure you’re saying thank you to all the right people, we want to make sure your list is updated to include all sorts of donors, including…

Those Who Donate Items: Not all donations to your cause come in monetary form. Whether it’s business owners passing on a few of their wares or collectible items from a personal collection, getting auction lots donated to your cause can be worth their weight in bids. And since you’re going to turn those auction items into money anyway, it’s important to make sure that donors are recognized accordingly. Thank you notes after the auction are great, but also think about other options in conjunction, like a mention of gratitude when the lot is introduced at the auction itself, or a “donated by…” in the program.

We spent some time in this space going over the benefits of encouraging major donors to “underwrite” certain trips. This can be a major commitment, of course, and so it’s important to recognize those contributors in any way possible. Like a donated item, they’ve made this travel package available, in their own way, so a mention during the auction, a thank you after the gala, and a program shout-out are all appropriate. It might also be nice to pass along any notes, thank yous or photos that you receive from the item winner after he or she returns from traveling – a way of including the underwriter later and an excuse for a reminder that the next gala auction event is always around the corner.

Volunteers: It’s difficult to pull off a major auction event with just your paid staff, which is why most galas depend on a team of volunteers. You may not be able to pay them, but you can make sure that they feel important. Giving them recognition from the stage and sending thank you notes are, again, both important. But trying to find other ways to put them in the spotlight can be fun, too; maybe a volunteer helps introduce one of the night’s biggest auction items, or gets on the microphone to give some background on the cause for which your organization is raising money. Letting your volunteers take center stage give them one more reason to feel warm and fuzzy about your non-profit, which will help when you call for their unpaid assistance in the future.