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This Is My (Mostly) Grown Up Donor Relations Holiday Wish List

I have a deep and unshakable affection for holiday music. I’m the sort of person who starts listening in October, which apparently bothers a few folks out there (whatevs). Don’t worry – I keep my headphones on. I’m not looking to convert you. I’m not religious, and I don’t have a particular fondness for the holidays themselves, but there is something about the joyous melodies of holiday music — in any genre — that just puts me in a good mood for weeks at a time (the sweater weather helps, too).

Eight weeks of rotating through my playlists on shuffle has left me inspired to share a holiday wish list of my own. It’s a bustling time of year for us donor relations professionals, between year-end gift inquiries and obligatory holiday parties (the ones we host AND the ones we attend). So grab some egg nog and sing along as we bid adieu to 2018. Because here’s my lifelong wish, My (Mostly) Grown-Up Donor Relations Holiday Wish List:

  • No more “Thasks.” That’s an appeal all wrapped up in a Thank You, to which I say, “No Thank You!” And putting it in a holiday greeting?!! C’mon! That’s something The Grinch would do. Just stop. I would rather have a stocking filled with coal.

  • Speaking of holiday greetings, how about sending something truly unique and inspiring from our organizations instead of that slightly altered take on last year’s printed card? Maybe a cutting-edge video that highlights the impact of philanthropy? Raise your hand if you started working on the holiday greeting in June and still ended up with something that sounds like, “In the spirit of the season …” We’re going to need more egg nog.

  • A real holiday break. Look, we love our donors. We love our organizations. We definitely want to help our colleagues in times of need. Year-end giving is a lifeline for many of us, it’s true. What’s also true is that extended, uninterrupted time to ourselves or with loved ones, friends and family is a dose of holiday cheer we all could use. How about an email free December? If only for one month.

  • Adequate human and financial resources to thank, recognize and engage our donors and steward their gifts. And 100% retention of high-performing staff. What? This is a Wish List, folks!

  • And of course, world peace.

Seriously though, how about a year-end reality check on how well all of our activities connected directly back to the mission of our organizations? Were our events purpose-driven and propelled by meaningful, measurable outcomes? What about every communication piece? Did we successfully connect our donors with their beneficiaries and showcase the impact of their giving? What about the times we let processes and policies get in our way? Or egos? How wonderful it would be to enter into the New Year with an organization-wide pledge to always remember: The work we do is bigger than us.

What about you – what’s on your Donor Relations Holiday Wish List? I know I’m not the only one with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. Let’s take a moment to toast the success of 2018, and then greet 2019 with a renewed spirit devoted to making our holiday wish lists – and our donors’ dreams – come true.

Take good care of yourselves and others (in the spirit of the season …).

With gratitude,


DRG Group member Matthew Helmer serves as Executive Director of CSU Events & Community Engagement at Colorado State University. In addition to egg nog, he’s committed to enjoying some peppermint bark and pie with his holiday music this season. All of the pie. Tweet him @ExperienceGuru or connect on LinkedIn. Recipes welcomed.


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