A memorial gift is a common way of donating to a nonprofit. But think about taking memorial gifts one step further by building a strategic and branded Donor Recognition Card Program that proactively markets and encourages donors to think beyond giving gifts in memory.
Let’s outline what types of special occasions are best to promote and it will detail the Recognition Card Program internal procedures and protocols as professional fundraising consultants we recommend to ensure a well run program. Let’s begin.
The Best Special Occasions to Promote: We’ve all heard the cliché, “What do I give someone who already has everything”? There’s an altruistic answer; begin to brand and promote giving gifts in honor of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Encourage donors who already have what they need to ask guests to give contributions to your organization in lieu of gifts for their new baby & shower, a birthday, their wedding (check out the https://www.idofoundation.org/). Also promote examples of gifts given from Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other special occasion.
Brand Your Program: Making a gift to charity in ones honor provides a meaningful response; and may even create a spark within that person to begin to do the same. As a fundraising professional, whenever given the opportunity to speak to a captive audience about your nonprofit and how they can help; emphasize the many ways to give to your organization through your Donor Recognition Card Program. Brand it as a unique and touching way they may remember or honor someone special. The donor will find that giving to a particular organization in this fashion affects their loved ones in a way they will remember and cherish.
Here’s a genuine example of how giving to a nonprofit through recognition cards encouraged one donor to pay it forward. A client of our consulting group asked friends and family members to give donations to a nonprofit significant to them instead of giving gifts to them after the birth of their first child. This donor got the idea after his company purchased Holiday Cards they give to clients instead of their traditional box of chocolate covered cherries. Once introduced to the new concept or trend of gifting donations to a nonprofit in lieu of personal gifts for a special occasion, it will prompt some people to donate in a similar manner in the future; building your Recognition Card Program brand and ultimately revenue for your nonprofit.
Your Recognition Card Procedure: Talking about your nonprofit’s Recognition Card Program is just the beginning. As with any specific and branded professional fundraising strategy or program, you must be able to communicate with your donors efficiently and precisely. Your Recognition Card Program is no different. Therefore, establish procedures and protocols to ensure a well thought out system is in place to implement and manage your Recognition Card Program.
If you do not follow through and create that Recognition Card Program system within your organization; it may backfire. Here’s an example of what to avoid. During the memorial gift acknowledgment process, the name of the deceased was erroneously entered as the donor; as a result the donor was entered as the deceased. Consequently, the memorial gift thank you letter was sent to the deceased’s’ family. In turn, the card intended to notify the deceased’s’ family of the memorial gift was sent to our donor. Shortly after, the nonprofit received an unpleasant call from the donor. The criticism was well deserved; after all, a thank you letter was mailed to a dead person; a person very special to the donor. It didn’t matter who made the mistake, the important next step was to learn from the mistake and fix the procedure.
This vignette offers an ideal segue into how to organize a well-run, fool-proof Recognition Card Program.
1. Recognition Card: You must have Recognition/Memorial Card to send to the person the gift was made in honor/memory of (in the matter of a death – a card to send to the family of the deceased). This card should mention who gave the gift, the occasion, whom the gift was given in honor/memory of, and the name and mission of the organization the gift was given to. DO NOT mention the amount of the gift.
2. Thank You Letter: Next, the donor, or person who made the gift must receive a thank you letter letting them know the gift was received by your organization, and a card was sent to the person they have honored or the family of the deceased. You should also include wording that reinforces that the amount of the gift was not mentioned, and include the date that the card was sent.
In the event your organization is receiving numerous memorials for one person, you do not want to send the family of the deceased numerous, identical thank you letters. Instead, phone the family of the deceased, express sympathy for their loss, and personally thank them for the memorial designations to your nonprofit. Then explain that you would be mailing them a list of the donors who gave gifts in memory of their family member; the total amount of donations would be listed at the bottom of the report. This is an effort that is genuinely appreciated by the family, because it is personal and they too want to thank the friends/family who gave a gift in memory of their loved one or gifts in honor of the birth of their child and so on.
3. Timeliness: Ideally, the recognition card will be sent out the same day the gift was received. The staff member in charge of opening mail and/or managing donations should have recognition cards and stamps accessible to them so they may simply hand write, or print out the card and mail to the intended recipient that same day. The thank you letter to the donor can mail upon your normal thank you letter schedule; which should be at a maximum, weekly.
4. First-Class stamps: Always use first class stamps when mailing the recognition card and thank you letters.
5. Procedure Training: Your staff must have a formal training on the procedures used to receive, process, and thank recognition card donations. Procedures should include: 1) One person designated to open gifts; 2) One person designated to handle recognition card gifts (can be the same person); 3) A supply of pre-printed cards on hand; 4) One person designated to hand-write on the card who was honored/memorized by the gift and the name of the donor; 5) One person designated to mail the cards on the day the gift arrived; 6) One person designated to enter recognition card gifts into the donor database; and 7) One person designated to mail thank you letters the week the gift arrives. Of course, the entire procedure can be managed by the same person or two person’s working on the same team.
Raise Money Without Spending It: In running a Recognition Card Program cost effectively, you do not need professionally printed cards/brochures. You can simply use blank note cards and print your organizations’ logo on the front. The inside of the card can also be printed with appropriate text. This is what you will need:
· Blank Note Cards: Purchase or ask for donated cards from a discount retailer or paper wholesaler.
· Laser Printer or Ink-jet Printer: Most printers have excellent print quality. It’s recommended to use black and white printing for the best finished product.
· Agency Logo: Ensure you have your agency logo available in JPEG format. If you don’t have your agency logo, you will need to contact the designer of the logo and ask them to email it to you in JPEG format. If you don’t have access to the designer; scan your agency logo. Scanner’s typically scan an image as a PDF. Take that PDF of your logo and then “save as” a JPEG format. If your version of Acrobat Adobe will not allow you to ‘save as’; find a volunteer or friend who has a purchased version of Acrobat 8 or higher so you may get your logo in JPEG format.
It may seem much attention is being made to having your logo in JPEG format; yet, if you are not already aware, you will find having the availability of your agency logo will save printing costs in many areas.
Begin to discuss the building and branding of a Donor Recognition Card Program within your nonprofit as a permanent and growing fundraising strategy which will increase your revenue far beyond your expectations. The program works, it’s easy to implement and most importantly you will see increased revenue within one year.