Donor Recognition Ideas: How to Appropriately Recognize Your Donors

Bronze Garden Plaque

Recognizing donors is a delicate process, it is important to find the right budget for recognition of the campaign. Donor recognition is best described as a way to say ‘Thank you’ to those who have given a gift to your campaign. Recognition benefits both the organization and the donor. Donors will look for their name in print or on a wall with pride, and the recognition will help to motivate others to give to the campaign. It is important to find the appropriate budget to spend for recognition; Too little would offend donors and too much would take away from the main goal of the campaign. This could leave the donor feeling like their donation did little help the original purpose.

Recognizing every donor the same can have some negative affects. It takes away from the significance of those who gave generous gift amounts. When low-end donors see the benefits increase with the level of donation, it helps to motivate them to give more prestigious gifts in order to receive the benefits.  Imagine putting yourself in the donors shoes; there are no incentives for your donor to give more if they receive the same benefits at a lower giving level as the top giving level. Respectfully, if you give a significant donor a very small plaque they could feel unworthy and resentful.

As a general rule of thumb, you want to create your giving levels, level names, and guidelines prior the start of your campaign. This will help to keep recognition even and fair with all your donors across the board from start to finish.

When the donor recognition is high quality and appropriately budgeted it will help to inspire others to give to the campaign as well. Dick Nicolson, Owner and Creative Director of has a formula he suggest to clients when considering a budget for their campaign:

For a small campaign you can spend as much as 5% of the campaign total.  For a large campaign, you can go as low as .001% of the campaign total.

Example:  $100,000 campaign at 5%=  $5,000.

$100 million campaign at .001% = $100,000

As we have learned, donor recognition is more than just a ‘thank you’ it can be used as a marketing opportunity. When recognizing donors strategically it will benefit both the donor and the organization as a whole.

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