Donor Recognition and Digital Curation: It’s a Must

August 8th, 2013

Control Key on Computer KeyboardIt is time that donor recognition and stewardship program policy data and tools embrace the archivist’s term: “digital curation”.

Digital curation is a term used with regularity these days as more and more of what we used to retrieve and peruse in hard-copy form, from images to printed media, is digitally-translated and made digitally-accessible.  And in modern fundraising organizations, much of what is conveyed or transacted originated in or is translated to the digital form; thus the term applies.

As today’s non-profits use valuable time and focus to store and retrieve donor insights, budgetary set-asides, facility-related and/or administrative data in efficiently digital ways, so too must today’s donor relations team organize and curate recognition and stewardship policy data.

Yet, my experience has proven that this almost NEVER happens. Instead, donor recognition and stewardship efforts tend to be knee-jerk, in-the-moment and product-related decision-making. Even by the most thoughtful of those who want to thank donors appropriately/proactively, the translation of stewardship documents, recognition program specs, communication goals and branding decisions to digital data is not the norm.

More likely in fundraising organizations of all sizes, each new recognition need causes the donor relations staff member to move immediately to call for product solution vendors to solve the current issue. Most commonly, there is little or no reference to digitally archived materials, budgeting or past practices as the proper guide to moving both the organization and the  vendor forward appropriately.

The result of such inaccessibility to readily available background data is a system of inconsistency and the layering-upon-layering of “look”, material selection, functionality and content. Donors, nor thnon-profit’s bottom-line, are positively served by such informality of archiving and retrieval of recognition and stewardship data.

This has to stop. And I believe it will via the more forward-thinking (not necessarily well-funded) administrations. They understand that the importance of digital access and maintenance for recognition program sustainability are critical to well-structured growth and ROI.  Now, as capital campaign size and regularity increase with on-going need, the time is now to underpin the efficiency and economy of efforts to thank donors by attending to internal processes for storing, retrieving, re-using and even re-purposing existing digital data related to the celebration and motivation of continued giving.

Continued giving, after all, means improvements in donor retention. And if donors stay around and repeatedly support the organization, that organization, by definition, will be successful.

Written by Robin E.Williamsarchive


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