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34 Donor Appreciation Ideas That Go Above and Beyond

15 min read
May 22, 2024
Alex Huntsberger
two yellow balloons with happy faces on them

Donor appreciation is about more than simply ticking a box in your moves management plan. It’s about building the kinds of strong, long-lasting relationships with your supporters that will power your nonprofit (and your mission) for years to come.

So, what are the best ways to make your donors feel appreciated? Well, that depends on your specific supporters! After all, no two donor bases are exactly alike. That’s why you should collect data on your donors’ preferences and engagement to see what excites them.

To supplement that data collection, we’ve created this list of 34 successful donor appreciation ideas that you can use to fill out your stewardship strategy. You can click the links below to skip to a certain section.

The more your donors feel appreciated, the more likely they are to become regular givers. So what are you waiting for? Pick the ideas that best fit your donor base and get started! 

7 Ways to Say “Thank You” to Your Donors

Saying “thank you” is the easiest way to let someone know that they’re appreciated. When it comes to your donors, consider all the different ways you can express your gratitude, from handwritten notes to planting a tree in their honor.

1. Personalized Thank-You Notes

You should always (always!) send a thank-you note in addition to your regular donation receipt. But instead of sending them a form letter, personalized thank-you notes will really make them feel valued. This personalization could be as simple as some tokens in an email that populate the donor’s first name and donation amounts or as involved as writing handwritten notes on physical thank-you letters. 

2. Handwritten Birthday and Holiday Cards

Birthdays and holidays are perfect opportunities to show your donors that you’re thinking about them. Send them personalized cards that not only mark these special occasions but also convey your genuine gratitude. For an added touch of warmth, write your messages by hand. There’s a reason we’ve recommended this in two straight entries—it’s a gesture that never goes unnoticed. 

3. Thank-You Videos from Beneficiaries

Let the voices of those who benefit from donations express gratitude with thank you videos. These heartfelt messages directly show donors the impact of their generosity. Making the connection between their support and these real-world outcomes so clearly will provide a powerful incentive for them to give again in the future. Just make sure that you’re telling your beneficiaries’ stories ethically!

4. Hold a Donor ‘Thank You’ Day

Dedicate an entire day to celebrating your donors. On this Donor ‘Thank You’ Day, engage your whole organization in sending out calls, emails, and personal messages to express gratitude. This unified effort demonstrates your collective appreciation for all your donors and reinforces the value of every contribution.

5. “Thank-You” Poems or Songs

Practice the art of showing gratitude—literally—by creating a “thank you” poem or song for your donors. Collaborate with local artists or your own talented team to craft this creative expression of thanks that gives your donors a truly memorable token of appreciation. If this idea is a hit, then A personalized poem or song could make a fun addition to your next silent auction

6. Plant a Tree in Their Honor

Honor your donors by planting trees in their name—an eco-friendly tribute that grows (and grows) over time. Each donor receives a certificate or photo of the tree, symbolizing the lasting impact of their support and your enduring gratitude. Consider partnering with a local environmental nonprofit for a cost-effective solution that also expands your professional network. 

7. Artwork Created by Beneficiaries

What better way to say “thank you” than with unique artwork or crafts made by the very individuals who are benefiting from the donors’ generosity? This special gesture not only conveys gratitude but also gives donors a tangible connection to the cause they support. This idea will likely work best if your beneficiaries are children, and you can have fun planning an event where everyone gets together to hang out and craft their gifts.

7 Ideas for Publicly Recognizing Your Donors

Being publicly recognized for their contributions to your cause will make many donors feel extra valued. (Of course, not all of them want public recognition, so make sure you track those preferences.) Here are some ideas for different ways you can publicly recognize your supporters.

8. Shout Them Out at Public Events

Take the opportunity at events and in speeches to publicly thank your donors. Try shouting out individual givers—and not just your major donors. Of course, you should always be mindful of privacy concerns. But, overall, this is a tasteful and effective way to recognize your donors and celebrate the significance of their contributions to a wider audience. 

9. Donor Spotlights

Spotlight your donors in your nonprofit’s newsletters, on your website, and across social media platforms. This public acknowledgment not only honors them and encourages their continuing support, but it can also inspire others by showcasing the real impact of their contributions. Ensure that you have the donors’ consent and that their stories are told in a respectful manner. But don’t forget to create spotlights that are creative, engaging, and designed to be shared widely!

10. Donor Walls

Honor your donors with a place on your donor wall, which can be either digital or physical. These walls serve as a timeless tribute to generosity and allow donors to see the impact of their contributions in a prominent and tasteful display. For digital walls, consider interactive features that connect donors more closely to the benefits of their support.

11. Feature Donors in Your Annual Gala

Incorporate donor recognition into your annual gala program. This can include special mentions, awards, or a dedicated segment that acknowledges their support without overshadowing the event’s primary goals. This is a great way to highlight donors whose financial contributions might be smaller but who are very engaged with your nonprofit. After all, not all support is financial! 

12. Create a Donor Hall of Fame

Create a Donor Hall of Fame to permanently honor significant contributors. Whether virtual or physical, this space should be designed thoughtfully to be inclusive and regularly updated, reflecting the ongoing impact of your donors. A digital one could be a section on your website, while a physical one could easily live in a display case in your offices (although the more public the spot, the better). 

13. Annual Report Dedications

Dedicate a special section of your annual report to the donors who have significantly impacted your mission. Include personal stories and testimonials to deepen the connection between your donors and the outcomes of their generosity. This is an idea that you will come across time and time again in this post because it’s one of the best ways to encourage sustained giving! 

14. Donor Gratitude Blog Series

Launch a blog series on your nonprofit’s website dedicated to sharing stories about your donors and the difference they make. Craft each post to be engaging and respectful, ensuring that the content honors your donors’ contributions and the very real impact of their generosity—while also being the sort of thing that your donors and their friends or family members will want to share with their networks.

7 Perks and Benefits You Can Offer Donors

It’s amazing how simple stuff like a nice mug or priority registration for your next event can give people the warm and fuzzies. Here are some ways to do that! 

15. Donor Appreciation Events

Host exclusive events, ranging from intimate receptions to movie nights or staff meet-and-greets, to express gratitude to your donors. Whether virtual or in person, ensure these events are accessible and engaging, designed to make each donor feel special and valued.

16. Donor Appreciation Day

Basically, take the previous idea and blow it out. Hold an annual Donor Appreciation Day with various activities, refreshments, and individual shout-outs that highlight the importance of your donors. Make this day memorable with unique acknowledgments that reflect your genuine gratitude and the impact of their contributions. You could use this day as the perfect opportunity to hold an annual updating of your donor wall. 

17. Branded Merch

Send your donors branded merchandise, like t-shirts, mugs, or tote bags, as a token of your appreciation. Spending a little bit more to create a better design or purchase a higher-quality mug will really make a difference. If you’ve come up with fun nicknames for specific donor levels, getting those printed on a shirt will really make your donors feel like they’re in a special club.

18. VIP Treatment

Offer VIP experiences at your events, like early access, premium seating, or exclusive time with your staff members. A perk like priority registration is one of the best you can offer, as it provides a tangible benefit to your donors while also reinforcing that feeling of exclusivity (and still providing an accessible experience overall).

19. Donor Appreciation Packs

Send out appreciation packs filled with goodies and personalized items that reflect each donor’s impact. Choose gifts that resonate with their support and package them in an attractive yet cost-effective manner to show your gratitude. Rather than paying to mail all these out, you can drive them around to people’s mailboxes and pop them in yourself with a handwritten note attached. 

20. Customized Gifts

Tailor your gift-giving to align with the interests of your donors and the areas of your work where their gift is making an impact. From personalized items like bookmarks and bottle openers to books related to your mission, ensure each gift is meaningful and enhances the donor’s connection to your cause. People don’t want junk, so you should only ever execute this strategy if you feel very strongly that a given item will make a difference.

21. Original Artworks

Commission bespoke art pieces for significant donors by collaborating with local artists. Match the art style to the tastes and preferences of your donors, creating a truly personalized and impactful expression of gratitude. If you know of a local artist whose works are able to scale a bit easier, then you could try and work out a discounted rate to get artwork for all your donors, not just the major ones.

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7 Ways to Grant Donors Exclusive Access

Giving is a deeply emotional decision that is tied to a person’s identity. That’s why you can tighten those bonds between your donors and your organization by making them feel like they’re part of an exclusive club. Here are seven different ways you can do that! 

22. Donor-Only Content

Produce special content like behind-the-scenes videos or previews of upcoming new initiatives that are specifically for your donors. This enhances donor engagement and ensures that they feel a special connection to your mission. If you produce a lot of exclusive donor content, you can try setting up a section of your website that only they can access. 

23. Private Webinars with Key Staff

Host private webinars that allow your donors to directly engage with senior staff and delve deeper into your organization’s work. These sessions are a great opportunity for donors to ask questions and receive insights, making the webinars both interactive and informative.

24. Access to Exclusive Research

Give your donors the privilege of early access to new research findings or reports. Presenting this information in an exclusive manner makes your donors feel like integral parts of your organization’s progress and success. For a big piece of new research, you can also hold a kickoff party for donors that gives them a chance to mingle with each other and get to know your staff.

Is It Time for a New CRM?
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25. “Backstage” Tours

Offer exclusive tours of your facilities to let donors see the inner workings of your organization. Organize these tours carefully to ensure they are safe, engaging, and packed with insightful details about your day-to-day operations.

26. Educational Workshops

Provide your donors with the opportunity to participate in educational workshops that align with their interests and your mission. Tailoring these educational offerings makes each session a unique learning experience that deepens their connection to your work. If you are bringing an expert to hold a public workshop, look into setting up a special Q&A session afterwards that is donors-only.

27. Invitations to Speak at Events

Invite your donors to speak at your events, sharing their stories and motivations for supporting your organization. Prepare them for these speaking opportunities to ensure they feel comfortable and their contributions are highlighted effectively to the audience. These sorts of testimonials will not only make donors feel appreciated but can also make for powerful draws to potential givers. 

28. Dedicated Support Contact

Assign a dedicated staff member to serve as a direct contact for donors above a certain level, ensuring personalized attention and swift resolution of any concerns. This level of support shows your donors how much you value their involvement and satisfaction. This person would also be ideal to lead a monthly giving program that encourages dedicated donors to schedule regular support. 

6 Ideas for Building Equity and Demonstrating Donor Impact

Your donors are more than just a source of funding. They are key partners in your mission. You can strengthen that partnership by giving them a sense of equity in your organization and reminding them that their support is making a real, tangible impact. 

29. Celebrate Donor Milestones

Honor the key milestones in your donors’ relationships with your organization through specific communications. This could be a simple email marking a donor’s one-year anniversary since their first gift, but it could also be a discounted invite to your next event or a promise from a major donor to match their next contribution. Making each milestone memorable will engender good feelings.  

30. Naming Rights Opportunities

Provide your most committed donors with the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy through naming rights for parts of your facility or specific programs. This recognition not only honors their contributions but also gives them the opportunity to leave a lasting mark on your organization beyond their contributions. Look for opportunities to use naming rights to celebrate your dedicated supporters instead of just your biggest givers. 

31. Feedback and Surveys

Show your donors that their opinions are crucial by regularly seeking and acting on their feedback. This ongoing dialogue helps refine your strategies and reinforces the value you place on their insights, strengthening their commitment to your cause. Not sure what donor survey questions you should ask? Well, boy oh boy, do we have the article for you:

32. Participation in Project Planning

Deepen donor engagement by inviting them to participate in the planning stages of new projects. This inclusive approach not only shows trust and appreciation but also ensures that donors feel genuinely involved in shaping the initiatives they are supporting. Obviously, this is something where you’ll have to put in a fair bit of planning, but even holding some donor-exclusive public discussion groups when you’re developing a big new initiative could yield really positive results. 

33. Impact Reports

Keep your donors informed with detailed impact reports that clearly demonstrate how their contributions are making a difference. Utilize vivid visuals and compelling narratives to bring these stories to life so that donors can see the real-world effects of their generosity. Look for ways to share the stories of individual donors in these impact updates that can serve as stand-ins for how all your supporters make a difference. 

34. Community Building Activities

This is our last item! Strengthen the bonds between your donors and your organization by facilitating community-building activities. These can range from networking events to donor forums, all designed to create a vibrant community of like-minded individuals who are passionate about your mission. If you’re looking for some ideas of what kind of events you can hold, check out this list we’ve compiled of 52 nonprofit event ideas:

Want to Build a Recurring Giving Program? 

We don’t expect you to do everything on this list. But, hopefully, these ideas will spark conversations at your nonprofit and spur a few new donor initiatives that kick off a virtuous cycle of gratitude, giving, and growth.

One of the most effective ways to translate a donor appreciation strategy into increased giving is by asking your most dedicated supporters to give regular, scheduled gifts as part of a recurring giving program.

Did you know that recurring giving is one of the only forms of nonprofit giving that’s currently on the rise? It’s true! We studied over 100,000 donors to 2,000 Neon One clients over a span of five years, and the results were very encouraging.

But don’t take our word for it! To learn more about the power (and potential) of recurring donors and practical tips on starting a monthly giving program, download The Recurring Giving Report: Data-Backed Insights for Sustainable Generosity.

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