Welcome to The Thanks Tank

May 27th, 2009

Welcome to our first blog. I’m new at this, at communicating directly with readers. Over the years, we’ve become used to writing what we think, having it printed, and never knowing how it was received. With this blog, with new technologies my designers have introduced to the thanking of donors, and with the recent changes in our economy, I’m learning all the time.

This new opportunity to connect with folks represents an exciting moment for me, for us. We are hopeful that readers will interact through responses, inquiry and through the sharing of real life experiences. As we become more adept here at this direct communication, you’ll come to meet others of our staff as they test the waters, finding their own voice by sharing their thinking about thanking too.

Today there is a stronger focus and commitment for donor recognition to be an integrated and vital component of donor stewardship than ever before. It hasn’t always been that way.

I’ve seen it all over the last 24-plus years of architecturally-based donor recognition efforts. From a fundraiser who kicked at a box of discarded bronze plaques under his desk as he embarks on a new capital campaign, to an organization that spent up to 50% of a $1,000,000 gift to buy a frieze of sculpted glass for the front of a new facility. (The donor thought it was cool and the architect thought it was just the right touch for his building facade.)

I’ve been asked it all too. Like the request from the disappointed fundraiser to do what we could to make her carved glass frieze visible in the daylight. It had be an oversight by the artist and the architect not to specify lighting. We had to find some sort of light source with enough lumens to overpower the sun! Or from the box-kicker, “Could I just melt down those all those discarded plaques under my desk since the building has been renovated? No one knows who’s given what and no one will probably miss them anyway.” (Yikes! That’s been asked more often than you would ever guess.)

Fortunately, that was then and this is now. These experiences and others like them have combined to enable us to take a new and unique look at thanking donors. We advocate that fundraisers turn away from wondering ONLY what plaque will look like or cost. Instead, we urge more thought be spent on thanking as a vital component of donor stewardship, on implementing a donor-centered approach to thanking. Fundraisers now are more eager to communicate, to compete within a fast-paced fundraising environment and, happily, we find they are more often ready to be held accountable for costs than ever before.

Changes over the years since we began in 1985, have led directly to our authorship of the Best Practices for Donor Recognition. The call to “think before you thank” is a welcomed admonition now. Written donor recognition policy and procedures for thanking donors, acknowledging gifts and naming facilities are the norm for our clients. These processes have been proven time and again to ensure the nonprofit organization of a proper return on their donor recognition activities. ROI is no longer ignored or overlooked. Fierce competition for donors today means that positive returns on stewardship investments are mandatory. The future really is now.

We are ready and excited to communicate more directly through The Thanks Tank and hope you respond. Thank you for reading, considering, and we urge you to join in. Share any thoughts we might conjure. I look forward to the exchange!

Written by Robin E. Williams


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