Ask any donor what type of recognition they most like to receive for their gift and then listen closely to their answer—you will find that they want to know that their gift made a difference. They want to know that their gift was used wisely for the purpose intended: to forward a research project, to advocate for adults with mental illness, to provide housing and job training for one individual or family, patient, etc. They want to know that, at the end of the day, their financial contribution to your organization made life better for someone or made the planet a better place. They want the facts.
Do not underestimate the power of facts and statistics on donors. Share with them as much detail as you can. One young man I know sent me an accounting of exactly how each dollar I had sent him was used to fund programs in Vietnam. Granted, the program was small and he was in charge of spending all the money, so he had ready access to the facts. Nonetheless, it impressed me to see how much of the money went to which orphanages, how much to the Agent Orange program, and how much to the schools.
Although he is only a teenager, this young man knows the essential secret about raising funds from individuals: we are emotional donors looking for facts to justify our emotional decisions to give. He didn't underestimate the facts for one minute.
Not only did he provide the facts, but he took it a step further by including the emotional impact of those facts. In addition to the factual accounting of how the money was spent, he sent a personal letter describing his trip to Vietnam to visit each of the programs and present them with their funds. He enclosed a signed photo of three little girls in the orphanage.
That was all the recognition I needed. I will be a donor for life to this young man's organization. In a simple, low-budget way, he did a superb job of recognizing me by connecting me to the factual and emotional impact my gift had made.
He could have sent me all kinds of baubles and plaques, and while they might have looked nice when hung on my wall, I would have wondered why he spent money on all the trinkets rather than on the programs he was so dedicated to supporting.
How could this simple approach work for you? It starts at what we call the initial Point of Entry Event—a one-hour, get acquainted event. In this case, the young man's Point of Entry had been a little meeting at his home. I went because his mother is a friend and I have an interest in Vietnam. The programs and needs he talked about at the Point of Entry were the very same programs my small contribution later went to fund. There was consistency in his message. I connected instantly to the stories he was telling about the children and families affected. The facts and statistics were compelling, as was his personal commitment to making a difference in Vietnam. It was impressive. He never asked for money. He asked me to think about what I had heard and said he'd like to call me for advice and feedback a few days later.
When he called, I told him that I really didn't have time to get more involved but that I would like to know when he might be hosting other informational evenings like the one I attended, as I would like to encourage a few friends to attend. I told him that when he was ready to raise money for the effort, I would be happy to support him with a modest gift.