3 ways to celebrate your donors’ milestones

connecting with donors

I’m celebrating today! 

Blue Sky Philanthropy is officially turning six. 

This is one of several BIG milestones that are happening for me in 2023 - both personally and professionally.

I think it’s important to take the time to celebrate milestones, both big and small. And this has gotten me thinking about our donors, and how we acknowledge the milestones in their lives.

Whether you’re recognizing them for their longtime giving, or marking a cultural celebration that’s important to them, you can stand out from the crowd by thoughtfully celebrating your donors’ milestones.

1. Birthday wishes 

It always surprises me how underutilized birthday wishes are when we’re thinking about ways to appreciate our donors.

There are so many ways to respectfully gather information about birthdays, anniversaries, retirement dates, and other important milestones: donor surveys, public posts and profiles on social media, and my favourite - listening carefully! 

When a donor mentions an upcoming celebration in conversation, make note of it, and where appropriate, record it in your database. 

If this feels overwhelming to keep track of, think about introducing this as a practice to one donor segment at a time – for your major or monthly donors, for example. 

Your process doesn’t have to be complicated – for example, you could simply pull a report of birthdays that fall in April (hint hint) at the beginning of the month, and set aside an hour or two to write a batch of cards. 

2. Marking giving anniversaries

I recently got a thank you letter that acknowledged my years of giving to the organization.

It was a nice idea, but honestly,  it felt squeezed in as a bit of an afterthought. 

Don’t bury the lede - five or ten years of giving is so rare and precious these days, and worth celebrating!

What a great opportunity for an impromptu thank you call – you could even pull lists of all your 5+ year donors, and have your board members call them to thank them for their long time commitment. 

I know historical data accuracy is a common concern when it comes to acknowledging donor anniversaries – but please, don’t let that stop you from celebrating.

Trying to get it perfect may be holding you back – and truly, most donors would prefer an warm and personal acknowledgment of their generous longstanding commitment giving that’s off by a couple of years, as opposed to hearing nothing about it at all. 

3. Cultural celebrations 

Just in the past few weeks, I’ve had conversations with fundraisers and donors in which they’ve mentioned their family celebrations for the Lunar New Year, Nowruz, Holi and Purim. 

(Are any of these unfamiliar to you? There’s lots of amazing information online about cultural and religious celebrations and holidays you should be familiar with as an inclusive fundraiser – start with yourself first, and do some research).

Cultural celebrations are a wonderful - but often missed - opportunity to celebrate with your donors. 

Again, this is where thoughtful listening is crucial. When you are building a great relationship with your donors, these celebrations with friends and family will often just come up naturally in your conversations. 

It’s also important to note here that there’s a risk of tokenism when the acknowledgment of cultural celebrations is not approached with care - ensuring that you are collaborating with and consulting members of any cultural community if you are planning an activity or event is crucial (as evidenced by this story, which received international coverage in 2022). 

Have you had success in celebrating milestones with your donors? Do you acknowledge any other milestones I haven’t mentioned? 

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