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Showing Honor

Planned giving often involves a reciprocal exchange relationship in which donors have certain expectations of the organizations they support.  Planned gift donors have made investments in the long-term viability and growth of organizations that they value.  They have entrusted their philanthropic aspirations into the care and custody of specific charitable organizations.

A planned gift donor has made a gift that will support the organization in perpetuity; the organization, in exchange, has an obligation to that donor for the long haul. Such donors deserve to be honored in ways that are meaningful to them, appreciative of their foresight and commitment, and appropriate to their gifts. Honoring donors include paying attention to the details of the gift process and the donor’s intent, thanking the donor and acknowledging the gift with timely, accurate and warmly personal letters, continuing communications with the donor after the gift is complete, and sustaining the relationship for the long-term benefit of both the organization and the donor.

The most appreciated ways to honor donors are often simple and personal, customized to the donor’s needs and interests.  Communicate to donors how the distributions from their gifts are being used and who has benefited. Show how the donors’ goals have been advanced by the gift.  This kind of personal communication, directly related to the gift, deepens the donors’ relationships with the organization.

Recognition should be given frequently and in varied formats. Send cards or notes to donors on Thanksgiving, their birthdays, or the anniversary of their gifts. Precede a mailing with a phone call, or follow the mailing with a phone call. Invite the donor to functions, events, activities, and annual meetings—all aimed at keeping the connections strong. Send newsletters, press releases, and newspaper articles about the organization. Take planned gift donors to lunch at least annually. Add handwritten notes to form letters. Very few people object to being thanked or thought about too often.

In addition, you may want to offer special opportunities to donors to your organization. Some options include lunch with the CEO or board chair, backstage tours, picnics with grantees, receptions with the speaker after a lecture, auditing a specific class, or sending program notes before the concert. Make personal introductions to staff member who may be of particular interest to the donor. Ask donors to submit an article for the organization’s newsletter or magazine about a personal experience or their area of expertise.

Honor advisors who have helped complete gifts to the organization or who have provided professional expertise, perhaps by recognizing them at the annual meeting or on the organization’s Web site and by inviting them to appropriate activities and events. Prepare a list of experienced advisors to share with prospective donors who ask for referrals. Ask some advisors to serve on the professional resource committee, to help select planned giving materials, to write an article for the newsletter, or to speak at a planned giving seminar.

By honoring your donors and their advisors, you are recognizing their contributions, demonstrating your organization’s appreciation of their gifts, and increasing the likelihood that they will give to your organization in the future and recommend it to their family members, friends, and clients.


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