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A Recipe For Success: How To Set and Forget Your Acknowledgments

Do you ever look at the all-encompassing work of your donor relations program and think, where should I spend my time? Acknowledgments, stewardship, recognition, and engagement—oh my! Amiright?

Guess what! We’ve mapped it out for you. If you look at your donor relations efforts as FTE, here is how we recommend you spend your time:

When it comes to the 4 Pillars of Donor Relations, you must be strategic in spending your valuable—and often restricted—time and resources. Sometimes, that means delegating or outsourcing a simple but essential task. Want to gain back at least 10-15% of your time? Start with donor acknowledgments.

We consider this vital task to be like a tasty crockpot meal—it’s a lot of work upfront, but you can set it on low and forget it until dinner time once prepared. This is excellent work for a new team member—or a third-party vendor— to take on. Use these tips and tricks to help you get the handoff just right!

  • Lay out all your ingredients ahead of time: Like a good chef, you’ll need to know what ingredients you have on hand and what you’ll need to source. Take a good inventory of your current acknowledgments and get them in top shape. Are they donor-focused and put the donor at the center of the story? Or are they a list of institutional accomplishments? Do they convey gratitude to the donor without asking for additional support? (No thasking!) Consider involving your board or loyal volunteers in an audit of these materials—often an outside opinion is just what we need to truly assess the state of our programs.

  • Read and refine that recipe: Is your acknowledgment process running like a fine-tuned machine? Or is it on the fritz? Do you have a written document outlining how you currently run your acknowledgment program? Like many excellent cooks—and my own grandmother—you are probably taking some knowledge that you currently possess for granted. Is there a salutation system in your database that’s hard to decipher? Perhaps you have a trick for working with that clunky laser printer? Our institutions love an acronym…just like my grandma loved oleo. But those acronyms aren’t always clear and usually require an index to understand—so include one in your process outline document! Side note, where does one find oleo today? Asking for a friend…

  • Don’t forget to stir: Remember that your acknowledgments should be updated quarterly, and you need to make sure that’s included in the instructions you hand over to your teammate or vendor.

  • Don’t forget to taste-test from time to time: Check in every now and again to ensure that your instructions are clear and to see if any unique situations have popped up where your institutional knowledge might be helpful. Better yet, come up with a process for asking questions via Google Docs and save yourself an email or meeting! Build that into your instructions to set that expectation from the beginning.

Delegation and outsourcing can feel like a loss of control—and to an extent, it is. However, it’s also a chance to say “yes” to more time, new projects, and deeper donor connections. I wish you all the very best—bon appétit!

Still short on time or staff? We can help! Our team of tenured professionals manages a wide variety of outsourced donor relations program functions, including acknowledgments. Learn more about how we can help!

Learn more about organizing your acknowledgment program at our upcoming conferences in Chicago and Las Vegas, or our March 2023 webinar, Structuring the Chaos of the Acknowledgment Process.


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