Don't Forget Your Donors This Holiday Season

Good donor stewardship is important the year round. For our planned giving donors, however, stewardship can be even more important during the holidays. At this time of year, the loss of family members and friends, or the fact that they live far away, is felt more keenly. Likewise, physical changes may keep older donors from enjoying their traditional celebratory activities. All of which means a remembrance from you and your organization will be especially appreciated.

Below, we describe how to make the standard acts of holiday stewardship more meaningful to your donor, plus some ideas to try next year.  

Holiday Cards – We’ve seen donors hang cards from charities right alongside those from friends and family. Personal touches are what will make a card meaningful to your donor --  and keep it from ending up in the “round file” along with the holiday catalogs and credit card offers.

In the age of e-mail, handwriting is the token of personalization. If you can, handwrite the mailing address. If time and the size of your mailing list don’t allow for this, try preparing your mailing labels with a festive font and holiday image. On the inside, a handwritten note is best, but at a minimum, hand sign the card. Show your donor that she is also appreciated by others in the organization; ask colleagues in the development office and possibly other staff members to sign the card as well. In addition, you can include a staff photo with the card.

Unless your organization’s mission is explicitly religious, send a religiously neutral message. While store-bought cards might make sense for a very small mailing, it is relatively inexpensive and more intimate to design your own cards. A well-known building on campus covered in snow or a festive photo of those you serve will feel very timely. And if you are sure about the holiday a donor and his family celebrates, you can express that in your individual note/signature message.

UChicago_Holiday_Card_1  UChicago_Holiday_Card_2-631340-edited
Holiday Card from the University of Chicago. To save on printing cost, the entire institution uses the same card design. Planned giving officers can then personalize the inside note to donors. 

An additional thought: Next year, you might consider sending a Thanksgiving card instead of a holiday card. Fewer cards are sent out at that time of year, so yours will stand out more. In addition, the nature of the holiday couldn’t be better suited to a stewardship action.

Gifts and Visits – A modest gift, usually in combination with a visit, is a lovely way to show your appreciation. You might bring a small poinsettia plant, a wintery candle, or a special item from the local bakery (Danish Kringle anyone?). Attach a gift tag or a label with your organization’s name and holiday wishes. Or you might include something with your organization’s name/logo on it, e.g., a coffee mug with a message about keeping warm this time of year. When considering budget, the old cliché holds true here – it’s the thought that counts.

You might not be able to call on all of your donors, but think of those for whom such a visit might be most meaningful.

Events – Because of the hectic nature of the holidays, it's not common to host planned giving donor events during this season.  

That said, we have heard about one idea for such an event we think is very appealing. It is called a “Thanks-For-Giving” event held right after Thanksgiving and just before schedules start to fill up in December. You can learn more about the event and one organization's success with it (for over 8 years!) by viewing a short video here (many thanks to Movie Mondays by Christopher Davenport). While not aimed at planned giving donors in particular, the event could easily be adapted with the same benefits.

We realize that the holidays are a busy time for gift planners. But don’t make yourself so busy that you forget your donors!

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