5 Virtual Recognition Ideas For Nonprofit Donors

Steven ShattuckApril 12, 2021

donor recognition examples

The global pandemic has likely cut down on the amount of foot traffic your nonprofit’s office or on-site premise has been receiving. This means that fewer people are seeing your traditional donor recognition devices, like donor walls, donor brick pavers, donation certificates, and plaques.

Even as we emerge from the global pandemic, these forms of on-site donor recognition will only reach a small audience, and fail to capture the full breadth, impact, and meaning of each of your supporter’s contributions.

If you care about building meaningful relationships with your donors, you can’t skimp on donor gratitude efforts just because you can’t fill a ballroom for a gala or show off your beautiful facility lobby to visitors.

Here are a few donor recognition ideas and examples that, despite being virtual, will still be impactful to the recipient and your online community.

1. Post on social media.

One way you can recognize your donors on social media is to consider making room for a “donor of the week” and/or a “volunteer of the week” post on Facebook or Instagram. Not only will it check one of your weekly or daily social media posts off the list, but it will also likely be the post that gets the most engagement out of all others, especially if you tag the person you’re highlighting because it will show up to their connections as well as your page followers.

Be sure to get permission first; explain exactly what it is you’re doing and why, and don’t hesitate to show them the final draft of the post before it goes live. Zero in on unique stories of support, like long periods of giving (“Sally has been a donor for over 30 years”) or a unique gift (“Wesley donated all of his old toys to the shelter”). Don’t forget about your institutional funders! They will love the PR.

You can use each social network for unique purposes. For example, given LinkedIn’s emphasis on business and professional networking, it may be most appropriate to highlight corporate sponsors, board members, or companies who offer employee matching on that platform.

Whatever you do, be sure to include a photo or a video, plenty of supporting text, and a call-to-action in the form of a link (where possible) for folks to take a similar action. Not only do you want the donor to feel good about being recognized, but you also want to instill a feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) on the part of those viewing the post.

2. Host a live streamed event.

Just because you can’t get together in person doesn’t mean that you can’t throw a party! The past year has shown that virtual events can be quite engaging and lucrative, even as we exit the global pandemic.

The virtual format gives you a lot of flexibility to dedicate events to particular purposes, one of which can be a standalone gratitude event! Instead of having a stodgy “donor recognition breakfast,” you could try any of the following:

  • a happy hour for brand new donors from the past month, which recurs every third Wednesday of the month
  • a special fireside chat with a longtime donor and the current Executive Director
  • an exclusive presentation or class from a guest speaker only for current monthly donors

Utilize Facebook, YouTube, Zoom, or your favorite streaming service to allow attendees to participate from the comfort of their couch or home office. Even though the event will be billed as for a specific type of supporter, don’t be afraid to let non-donors (prospects) register. Perhaps they will donate before or after the event because of the invite!

3. Thank them in your email or print newsletter.

Similar to social media, your weekly or monthly email newsletter is a great place to highlight donors. The primary goal of your email newsletter is likely to drive traffic to your website, so consider publishing a small snippet of the donor story in the email, and then giving readers a call-to-action to click through to read the full story on your website. Be sure to test all of your links and pages prior to sending the email.

In addition to email, direct mail is not only a great way to say thank you to your donors, but it’s also a great way to show current and prospective donors who their fellow donors are, and why they give. Beyond just sending donor thank you letters to acknowledge gifts, your print newsletter is an excellent opportunity to highlight supporters and let them tell their story.

Given its frequency and the more formal, tactile feel of the medium, an interview format may be appropriate. If they’re particularly passionate, the donor could write the piece themselves (“Why I Support ‘X Charity'”). Your goal should be to create something nice enough that the donor being featured will want to cut it out and frame it!

4. Recognize the donors on donation pages.

Donation pages are a sneaky-good place to let current supporters encourage prospective supporters to complete their donation. Consider peppering your donation page with short quotes from donors about why they give. Similar to social media, you want to create FOMO that will cut down on donation page abandonment. Imagine these highlighted supporters as cheerleaders encouraging the online donor to finish filling out the donation form. Just be sure not to impede the act of filling out the donation form in any way.

5. Do some 1:1 outreach.

While there is a lot of benefit to communicating to your broader audiences, don’t neglect reaching out to these supporters individually to show your appreciation.

Even during times of crisis, particularly those involving social distancing, we have many tools at our disposal to make personal connections without having to be face-to-face.

During the pandemic, savvy fundraisers seem to have rediscovered the phone in particular. A random sampling of about 4,000 Bloomerang users found that those who reached out to donors personally (phone, email, text, in-person) in March and April 2020 saw significant year-over-year increases in revenue compared to those who didn’t.

donor recognition examples

In this case, in-person interactions were logged virtually, via Zoom, Facetime, and other streaming technologies.

Those trends continued on in May 2020:

donor recognition examples

Digital does not have to mean impersonal. Quite the contrary: A simple voicemail or a one-to-one email can be just as impactful as a handwritten note, with the added benefit of a potential two-way interaction. Just because gratitude isn’t public doesn’t mean it isn’t impactful!

Donor recognition plays too important of a role in donor retention and donor lifetime value to withhold telling those stories until an end-of-year event (or no event at all). Not only will your content benefit from having a focus on gratitude, but you’ll also have fun putting it together!

Schedule a live demo with our partner Bloomerang, and we’ll show you how easy it is to create and automate reports, utilize online and offline fundraising tools, quickly integrate and access all your data, and ultimately create more time to engage your donors.

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