Recognition Counts Too

It takes 4½ times the energy, resources, and staff to secure a new donor than to keep the donor you have. Start paying more attention to those who have shown their friendship and support for you.

Let’s say you lose 40% (low for many organizations) of your donors each year. For every 1,000 donors, you need to pump 400 new donors into the pipeline.

Read the piece here for some helpful tips on how to keep your friends.

(And by the way, if you don’t carefully monitor your attrition— you will be on the losing side. Keep tracking it. If it’s more than 40%, you have reason for concern.)

 One of my clients, a college, publishes an Annual Report. But they do not include an Honor Roll of donors.

 I encouraged (well…actually pushed hard) the President to add an Honor Roll the following year. The President was adamant. “Absolutely not.”

“Tom, why are you so insistent about not including an Honor Roll?”

He tells me that if he publishes a list of donors, every local organization and every other small Catholic College in the country, will pick up the names and go after the College’s donors.

I lost the battle. (A client is, after all, a client !) But I believe that Tom is absolutely wrong on the issue. For two reasons.

First, I don’t believe you can pick up names, for instance, from a publication or the plaques on the wall of a rival hospital and assume the donor will be interested in your institution. If the hospital is doing a good job of stewardship, donors will stay loyal.

The second important reason is that it provides a great opportunity for recognizing friends and supporters of the institution. We find that even non-donors look at the list and are motivated to join.

We have done studies of what people read first when they receive an Annual Report. They flip the pages until they come to the list of donors. That gets their primary attention.

If they’re a donor, they look for their name. It better be spelled correctly! Then they look for other names on the list.

(Guess what is the least read and has the least impact? It’s the report of the CEO and the Chairman of the Board. That’s why we ask our clients if they really want to put those two reports the very first thing in the Annual Report— the items that make the least impact.)

I also encourage our clients to list names by giving levels. I know for a fact that this encourages your friends to move to a higher level. They see who is in a higher bracket and they want to join that circle.

Good grief! It even happened to me.

Last year I said to Felicity, “You know, if we gave a couple extra thousand dollars, we could move to a higher level.” Can you believe it! Me, the professional. They got me!

Some of my clients ask what they should do if they have five thousand donors or ten thousand donors. “It could look like a telephone book.”

I tell them that’s wonderful. It provides proof positive of the great support they have. Everyone will want to join the cause.

In order to save printing costs, more and more are going to an electronic listing. That’s okay, I guess. But in our studies, it doesn’t get the recognition that the printed piece does.

You’ll need to make the choice. Which do you go for— saving money or greater visibility and recognition.

There’s one thing more I have been able to get most of my clients to do. It adds great emphasis to the need for ongoing support. Year after year after year.

I suggest that the names of donors be followed with the number of years of continuous giving. Be certain to list the names of the spouses (or the partners) even though one in the group may not be involved or an alum. You want to capture them both. Here’s an example of what I have in mind:

Mary and John Brown— 6
Ann and Samuel Phillips— 2
Norma and Andrew Simpson— 9

This recognition is important. First of all it encourages others to be regular donors. We also know that after four-years of giving, donors will not break the chain— not if proper appreciation is shown, good stewardship is practiced, and there is plenty of applause.

Books by Jerold Panas (click on the cover for more information)


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