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When Is the Best Time To Celebrate Donors?

By Angie Joens

It is November – and you know what that means? It is almost Thanksgiving! It’s one of my favorite holidays – the food, the change in weather, the opportunity to gather together with people you love (and some you tolerate). It is also a time to give thanks for all that you have and for those amazing donors who support your organization.

Recently, the Donor Relations Guru Group asked you to share samples of special occasion communications. We loved seeing all the creative and beautiful ways you celebrate your donors—thank you to those of you who sent in entries. There were some really creative, funny, and meaningful examples.

Many of us use traditional holidays as an excuse to communicate to our donors. We celebrate the holidays and special days that are meaningful to them. Our donors enjoy hearing from us and it is a great touchpoint. But when is the best time to celebrate donors? Always! It's the little, unexpected moments that often mean the most. Here are a few examples from samples that were shared with us:

I loved many of the birthday greetings submitted, but my favorite was from WOSU (The Ohio State University’s) Public Media. The front of the card featured a sweet quote from Fred (Mr.) Rogers “You make each day a special day. You know how, by just your being you.” I almost cried remembering this iconic man whose life’s work was to remind people how special we are. Genius! WOSU took a public media celebrity and used it to send to their donors. I love to see organizations use the things that set them apart from the other non-profits.

Another awesome idea included was from our friends at the University of Florida. They sent a major donor a series of 20 postcards from university leadership, scholarship recipients, friends and family over the month leading up to his 60th birthday. What he didn’t know is that the cards when put together created a beautiful illustration that once framed showed the image on one side and on the back had all the personal messages of love and gratitude to honor this donors birthday. AH-MAZ-ING!

There were other great submissions for holidays such as Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day. OK, that was ours from UC Davis – telling our donors how lucky we are to have them. They loved it – btw!

It got me thinking - what other unique holidays are there that we could play off of for our donors? So of course I Googled it. Did you now July 15th is National Cow Appreciation Day? Well neither did I - but UC Davis leads the way in both our College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and School of Veterinary Science school - so maybe our donors should get a cute note from us next July 15th.

Other ideas I think could be amazing would be International Women’s Day (March 8th) we could celebrate our amazing women philanthropists. Or how about National Dog Day (August 26th)? It could be a fun way for schools with a dog mascot, animal shelters, or really anyone who loves dogs to reach out to your donors. July 30th is International Friends Day – wouldn’t that be a great day to honor the friends who support our organization?

Have fun! Be creative! Stand out! Find a unique reason to communicate with your donors. And if all else fails be like Opportunity Enterprises and make up your own special occasion. They send a beautiful card to celebrate the anniversary of a donor’s gift. “Happy Donorversary” – I mean how cute is that?

If you have other ideas about how to celebrate your donors we'd love to hear it in the comments below!

This post was written by Angie Joens, DRG Group consultant and educator, and the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Development Outreach at the University of California Davis.


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