How are you “treating” your best donors?

I had a birthday recently, number 33. Not a milestone—kind of a gray, uneventful Wednesday, in fact. I pretty much assumed the day would pass much like any other.

But then came my birthday surprise, an unexpected visitor. My best friend, who had been quite ill, arrived at my office. In her hands she held a small box with one pink gourmet cupcake from a new bakery I’d wanted to try.

“I brought you your favorite,” she said a little sheepishly. “I wanted to buy you a bigger present, but I just couldn’t afford it. I do know you love cupcakes.”

I almost cried.

In the days after, I just couldn’t stop thinking about that delicate little pink cupcake and the simple joy it brought me. It got me to thinking. Far too many organizations go for the grand gesture when a simple, thoughtful action could do the job—and better.

How do you “treat” your donors—especially when they give? What cue can we all take from that cupcake?

  1. Be a friend—What programs do your donors feel passionate about? How long have they been a supporter of your organization? What brought them into your organization? Resist the urge to create a generic form letter. Use every piece of information you have to send a very personal message, friend to friend.
  2. Seize the moment—How long does it take for your organization to get a thank you note out the door? A simple heartfelt card arriving quickly trumps a fancy package that comes six weeks later. Even better, send a grateful e-mail the day the gift arrives, and then follow it up with a message by mail.
  3. Be honest—Donors can smell organizational blah-blah a mile away. Forego the canned paragraphs and the dreaded copy and paste from the website. Instead describe how their gift will be used and how lives will be changed—specifically and immediately.
  4. Make a call—Do the unexpected. Pick up the phone and surprise your donor with a personal phone call. Ask for nothing—but offer all your gratitude. Chances are, you’ll make a friend for life. An Executive Director we work with blocks out several hours every week for thank-you calls to major donors. Now that’s sweet!