Donor Appreciation

Dear Christian Radio,

I love cute or decorative boxes, baskets, and containers.  I’ve found they are useful when trying to organize or corral items. In our home there is a fun little box that I picked up at the craft store. It’s decorated with pictures of various sites around London. Adorable as the box is, its contents are what’s really special to me.

Roughly 26 years ago my husband and I started dating. I was a full-time student at the time and lived four hours away. Some of you remember the days of calling cards and huge phone bills—am I really that old?  To offset those costs, we wrote letters to each other every week.  I’ve kept those letters and actually re-read many of them a few weeks ago as I attempted to procrastinate on sorting out my closet. Oh my word…the memories, but more than those, I enjoyed the feeling I got as I was reminded again and again how cherished I am.

Perhaps you have a collection of old letters and cards that stir fond memories for you. Chances are they remind you how valued and loved you truly are. All people want to be valued and they need to be reminded in a meaningful way that they are special. Maya Angelou spoke this quote and it is dear to my heart,

 “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Friends, if you are involved in any form of donor care, these are words to live by.

PAR’s Partner Services team met at the beginning of this year. We challenged ourselves to choose a word that would sum up our goal for 2018. We chose intentional as our word. As we move forward, we are challenging one another to be intentional about leaving our donors feeling cared for and valued.  The truth is—for many of us—giving to a ministry requires sacrifice. Our sacrifice can be in the form of time, energy, or financial resources. Having this knowledge gives us a greater empathy, which allows us to better reflect on what our donor is sacrificing for our ministries. Such introspective practices serve to remind us of the important role appreciation plays in these critical and often fragile relationships.

In crafting our donor plan, we weaved in some elements that tangibly communicate our gratitude. The entire PAR team just completed its first Valentine’s Craft Event. We provided each team with construction paper, cardstock, stickers, glitter, glue, crayons and paper hearts. Each team received a list of names. They were then responsible for making homemade Valentine’s cards for each donor on their list. It turned out to be an overwhelming success! One donor sent a picture of hers on the refrigerator…another called her daughter who then shared with us how giddy her mom was at having received a Valentine’s card. The response was amazing.

Our goal: We want to help our donors feel loved.

Honest Moment: I totally second-guessed myself on the Valentine’s card idea…what if our donors thought they were cheesy?  Even some members of our team were hesitant because they didn’t consider themselves overly artistic or creative. We pushed through…and what initially seemed like a goofy idea turned into something that really touched people’s hearts. It wasn’t fancy.  It didn’t take hours of planning or require flow charts and data studies, but it worked.  We let our hearts and our crayons guide us…and it was beautiful.  The feeling of being cherished, or belonging, or even being noticed is truly foreign to some people.  It’s simply amazing how a 4” x 6” piece of paper has the power to remind a single mom or dad, widow, or divorcee that they too are loved.

PAR general managers receive a list of top donor gifts each week. They personally call or write a card to every donor on that week’s list. This models appreciation in action to the rest of our team; it also gives our GM’s an opportunity to build relationships and form friendships with donors. Consequently, each PAR team member is given a list of donor names whom they call following each spring and fall fundraising season. We ask them to simply say, “Thank you for partnering with us!” Each call is closed with the team member asking the donor how they can be praying for them.

Our goal: We want to help our donors understand that we see them as a people, not ATMs. We care for and appreciate each and every person God has placed in our path.

In the world of fundraising, asking for money is an important reality. Recipients of donor gifts must also grasp the importance of gratitude and balancing requests with expressions of appreciation. That is why twice a year—for PAR it is Easter and Thanksgiving—we send a card to our donors simply to express how much they mean to us. There is no reply device or envelope hinting at another gift.

Our goal: We express love to our family of donors.  Families celebrate together and that is what we hope these cards communicate.

When I say, banquets, many of you will instantly think of events you’ve attended where you instinctively knew the culmination of the event was going to end with someone asking for money. That is not a bad thing; PAR hosts those types of events annually! However, we also host banquets that have the sole purpose of bringing donors together to enjoy a nice meal, entertainment, and fellowship. To compliment the experience, we send them away with a small gift commemorating the evening.  Memories of this evening will linger with your donor and they will feel valued. Perhaps a local business can help offset some of the cost.

There are so many things that can be done to express appreciation and if you are worried about cost there are ways to communicate value without breaking the bank. Your Listener Engagement team will be on cloud nine knowing they get to help make this happen! Simple thank you videos – preferably not professional quality – resonate with donors.  E-Cards are another cost-effective way to say thank you.  Attachments in emails that afford donors the option to download something printable or resourceful are also great ways to connect.

Don’t wear yourself out by over-thinking appreciation!  There is much truth behind the comment, “It was the thought that counted.” Thoughtful acknowledgement creates an amazing experience for donors.  Think about the last time you received a thank you card or text, how it made you feel?  Attempt to replicate that same feeling with your donors.

I would caution you to avoid pre-printed thank you cards and generic notes.  These can send the wrong message—conveying the feeling that your organization is being expedient, or even flippant, rather than sincere. Donors are worth the time it takes to write a short thank you note or film a quick video. It really is the least we can do for them. After all, they took the time to write a check, call, or make an online gift.  Some of our stations even have donors who personally deliver their donations.  Take notice…these are important influences in your donor world.

Set aside time this month to meet with your team and brainstorm creative ways to show appreciation for your donors. Determine which elements are must-do’s and then weave those touching little extras that make donors feel special.  The Walt Disney Company is masterful in the art of experiential appreciation, which may be why my husband and I are both Disney fanatics.  There is a reason people call it the most magical place on earth!  Disney’s goal is to leave every visitor feeling like a kid who is welcome, valued, and appreciated. We should all adopt that same mindset when it comes to donor care.

Dear Christian Radio…

     1) Know your audience. As a GM, you should know who your top donors are and be working an appreciation plan.
     2) Take action. Your team should have an annual mail plan that includes actionable gratitude steps.
     3) Don’t sweat the small stuff. Gratitude is easy…don’t over-think it.  The smallest thank you can have the biggest impact on a broken heart.


Kayla Sanders
Director of Partner Services
Positive Alternative Radio

Kayla Sanders, invites you to share your questions and comments at [email protected].

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