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How and Why to Refresh Your Donor Recognition Strategy

Samantha Hunter
Published:  03/16/2021
Two hands holding a paper heart
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

It's clear that donor recognition and keeping donors informed of the impact of their gift to your organization is crucial. Donors want to feel connected to the results of their gifts and the organization as a whole. Frequent communication and tangible examples of how a gift is used creates the foundation of a relationship rather than it feeling simply like a transaction. 

That’s why effective donor recognition is a profound fundraising tool. It’s a key part of donor psychology and what motivates them to continue to give. But traditional donor recognition is a challenge when people can’t come in person to the hospital. 

Does your strategy still make sense? 

Taking pictures and videos of donor walls and then sending them out doesn’t necessarily have the same impact as an in-person visit or event. It’s also time-consuming for employees and in some cases not feasible. Certain non-essential staff might not be allowed in the hospital regularly depending on COVID restrictions. We need better solutions. 

Oftentimes it takes profound circumstantial change, like a global pandemic, to make us reevaluate how and why we do things the way we do. Why do we continue to recognize donors in the hospital hallways if donors can’t see it? 

Consider your unique community

Traditional donor recognition like brass plaques, though maybe antiquated, are still very important to society and aren’t going to disappear. But it’s important to make sure you evolve with the times. Some donors might not be interested in the community status of giving, but instead are more motivated internally by empathy or concern. But as we know, donors don’t always fall on one end of the spectrum or the other. Effective donor recognition has to accommodate and anticipate what motivates your specific audience. 

It’s important to find traditions within your organization that are engaging and unique to your donor base. When working on donor walls and displays for a facility, you spend a lot of time thinking about architecture and how it's going to fit in the physical building. Try applying the same thought process to in-home recognition items as well. Think about how something will fit in with your donor community. How does it tie in with other forms of recognition you already have? 

It’s all about connection

If you find something that you can just get out of a catalogue or find on a website then recipients will just toss it aside with other awards they’ve received. But even if it’s a small token of appreciation, but it has a strong connection to your donor community, it can create a lasting relationship between you and your donors which will help you build a more successful future. 

Thinking back to the basics of what makes donor recognition impactful, digital or otherwise, it's connection. Effective recognition addresses both the ceremony and the story of your organization and makes the donors feel connected to your organization and your mission. It’s not just digital communication that tells stories or physical recognition that creates ceremony. Really great recognition accomplishes both. 

For more on this topic and examples of in-home recognition that left a lasting impact, watch our webinar In-Home Recognition: Bringing Ceremony and Human Experience to Digital Communication During a Pandemic and Beyond.

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Meet The Author

Sam Hunter headshot
Samantha Hunter
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy

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