Recognizing the Anonymous Donor

Sections of this topic

    In the context of charitable giving/fundraising, the anonymous donor is someone whose name will not be publicly linked to the gift they’ve made … or even if they’ve made a gift.

    Usually the recipient organization will know the name of the “anonymous” donor; but, consistent with the donor’s wishes, will not allow that donor’s name to be linked to a specific gift, or to any gift, to that organization.

    Occasionally, a gift will come to an institution through a third party, such as an attorney, ensuring that the institution will not even know the name of the donor.

    In any case, whether or not institutional staff knows the donor’s identity, and even though no public mention is made of the donor’s identify, every effort should be made to acknowledge the gift … to thank the donor.

    Even if the donor is not being acknowledged publicly for his/her gift, s/he should get the appropriate recognition for the gift … for the support … for caring !!

    “Recognition” is something done “for” the donor, not for the public. And, for recognition to be appropriate, it must be consistent with the needs of the donor.

    That’s an important concept that many people in the nonprofit sector don’t know and/or understand. “Development” is all about the needs of the donor, ‘cause if you’re not considering her/his needs, s/he is not likely to be giving to you … or not likely to give to you again.

    Bottom line: All gifts to nonprofit organizations are made to satisfy the donor’s needs – from wanting to do some good, to helping his/her community, to “giving back” to an organization that has helped them or someone or some community they care about, to wanting the recognition that comes with giving, to wanting to enjoy the feeling of having helped, to any other reason that results in a gift.

    That’s not being cynical. It’s realistic. If making the gift didn’t in some way satisfy donors’ needs, if making the gift didn’t make donors feel good about giving, then they wouldn’t be giving.

    Most “anonymous” donors are known to the institution(s) they support, and those institutions know what has motivated that person to make the gift(s) and what it will take to get the donor to want to make future gifts.

    In knowing/understanding the needs of the donor, it’s not difficult to give that donor the appropriate recognition. It could be a handshake from the organization/s board chair or CEO, a report on how the donor’s gift will make and/or has made a difference in people lives and/or how that gift has impacted society, a note from someone whose life has been changed because of that gift, a video of the organization’s programs in operation, a small but appropriate gift (like a book) or any combination of those and/or anything else you can think of … that would fall into the category of “satisfying the needs of the donor.”

    Of course, if the donor is not known to the recipient organization, you can’t know the range of his/her needs; but, you can make an assumption – mainly that the gift would not have been made if it wasn’t satisfying one-or-more of the donor’s needs.

    What would you think one of those needs might be ?? What would satisfy that need ??

    I encourage you to share your thoughts, your answers to those two questions. Your responses (with attribution) can/will be the basis of a follow up posting.

    Next Week Jon Howard discusses THE essential element in Direct Mail Fundraising

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    If you’re reading this on-line, and would like to comment/expand on the above piece, or would just like to offer your thoughts on the subject of this posting, we encourage you to “Leave a Reply.” If you’re reading this as an email, and you want to comment on the above piece, email Comments to offer your thoughts. Your comments, with appropriate attribution, could be the basis of a new posting.