One day, while stopping by my son’s elementary school, I struck up a conversation with two of his friends. One of the boys was wearing his school uniform; the other boy was wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

Since this was an unusual occurrence, I asked them about it. The one young man, wearing his street clothes, explained, “They’re raising money for a new playground. If you give a dollar, you get to wear your own clothes for a day.” Looking over to the other young man, he quickly offered his insights with a smile, “I gave a dollar, too, ‘cause I want a new playground, but I don’t care about wearing jeans. I like my uniform.”

Like those two boys, everyone has their own personal reasons for giving. The same goes for major gifts donors. Each one is unique in their interests, personality and motivation. Not all of them will want the same thing—or even something—in return for their gift. So, the only way to show proper appreciation for major gifts is to know your donors well.

Some donors will want to remain anonymous, but that doesn’t mean they won’t want to feel appreciated. Anonymous donors deserve the same level of appreciation, just delivered in a more discreet way. Since “communication demonstrates appreciation,” keep in touch with them, privately and personally, to share some of the positive outcomes of their gifts. Tuck in a picture of a family served with a card of thanks—without including any specifics about their gift in the note.

Other donors will want their families to be included in any demonstrations of appreciation. When this is the case, make sure to have a photographer on hand to take a family photo that reflects the reality of each member’s participation in the gift—since a major gift represents money that would have been passed on to heirs.

Donor appreciation is a great way for organizations to showcase consideration for their donors, but—more than that—it is a great way to show donors that you have been listening, learning about them and have made the effort to let them express themselves.

Some donors will be relaxed, like comfy jeans. Others will be more formal, like a tidy uniform. No matter—just remember to tailor your acts of appreciation to your donors.

Tammy Weinman Tammy Weinman
Vice President of Support Services

Wichita, Kan.

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