The Future: Online Donor Recognition

September 17th, 2009

There is a shift in modern philanthropy away from foundation giving toward a new philanthropic model that includes highly organized means for a much larger number of individual donors to participate in the growing global philanthropy industry.  What should donor recognition be when there is no opportunity to gather the donors in one place, when there are no walls for plaques and when the individual gifts are smaller but the impact of the giving is huge? Why is it so important that we find new ways to achieve meaningful donor recognition online?

Fundraisers today are challenged with shifting the delivery method for donor recognition and telling a more complicated, larger story.

Through donor recognition, current donors – be they individuals, groups or foundations – are publicly thanked and future donors are inspired to give.  As such, donor recognition is a critical investment in future giving. The guidelines for how to do this for an online community are only just now being set. Currently, too few donors are recognized online, and of those who are, too many are part of static lists that lack context, story and motivation for further giving. Fundraisers owe it to their donors – and their missions – to do a better job of telling the specific story of what new communal philanthropy is achieving.

Thankfully, the same technologies that are allowing for the formation of online donor communities are also providing mechanisms for flexible, timely and affordable communication with constituents. Digital technology, social media and e-tools are making it feasible to reach a global audience with greater ease and cost efficiencies. Yet, questions still remain: does the lack of permanency in these media foster or compromise legacy-building? Is getting more information out to a greater number of people in a timely fashion more effective than establishing a permanent record that is seen by only a few?  Perhaps it is possible to do both by simply mandating that donor recognition have a permanent, secure presence online.

The rules for how to recognize donors in a new age are not something that can be solved once and in a way that suits the needs of all institutions. Each organization must consider it’s own culture, the parameters of its fundraising model and the communication venues available in order to test and refine the next paradigm for donor recognition. We welcome your comments and real-world examples, for better understanding by us all.


REWI The Role of Donor Recognition in the New Age of Philanthropy

This post corresponds to a Recognizing Success article posted on our website.  Look for past issues on our website and sign up to receive all future RS articles by email!


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