Hang with me here folks as I walk you through a nice little metaphor. Remember 3rd grade? Or have your tried to block out the year of long division? I remember 3rd grade, I had a great birthday party planned, the good old roller skating party. I was so excited for the event with my friends until my mother dropped the hammer, I had to invite everyone in my class, even the girl that pushed me off of the slide so she could go first, with me falling off and breaking my wrist, hrmph. I digress, my mother, as usual, was right, I had to invite everyone to the party. When you think of donor recognition and giving societies, I want you to think of my mother, uhm I mean I want you to be inclusive. Our donors deserve to be valued and included in the things we do to recognize and thank them.
Here are a few examples:
1. Your planned giving society: how is your list compiled? How do people gain access to the society benefits? I personally and professionally believe that if a person tells you or someone in your development office that they have included you in their life planning, invite them to the party. Revocable, irrevocable, bequest, annuity, CLUT, CRUT, who cares? These people have shown a dedication to us and we should be grateful and show appreciation. What's one more on the guest list? For those of you shuddering in fear, there have been no widespread reports, or any for that matter, of the elderly faking planned gifts just to come to a cocktail party or to obtain your car decal. Deep breaths. Treat them right, be inclusive and reap the rewards.
2. Your longevity/ loyalty society; how are you pulling that list? If I have to give to you 5 or more fiscal years in a row, I might fall off and be excluded. But if you pull the list by calendar and by fiscal year, I will probably hit the mark and be grateful for the inclusion. Remember, donors don't mark our fiscal year on their calendars in large red letters like we do. And, it's about them, not us. Also, for those of you with established societies, run a list of donors who have missed a year or two for eligibility and offer them the opportunity to buy those years back, Georgia Tech does this with great success. Try it, your annual fund folks will love you for the partnership!
3. For both your annual amount and cumulative amount societies, do you count matching gifts and soft credit? No? Why not? The donors had to fill out a form in paper or online to help you get the money, why shouldn't they receive recognition credit? Remember our job is one of inclusiveness and appreciation, the more the merrier. We have an opportunity to shine for these folks, to demonstrate their true value to us and to show them our appreciation for all of their efforts.
Back to the metaphor at hand, our job as I see it boils down to all of the things my mom did so well at my birthday parties: make everyone feel welcome, thank them for all of their gifts, even the play dough that she wouldn't allow anywhere near the carpet, make sure everyone gets a slice of pizza and cake, even the annoying kid that had to have the corner piece with the most frosting or didn't eat pepperoni, and to make sure the party favors were the best ever and made lots of noise (tchotchkes be dammed) lol, and to make sure that at the end of the day, everyone had a great, memorable time. Make sure your donors are treated the same way a birthday girl is, and that they remember that extra touch as memorably as I do.