What Is Donor Relations?

M. Kayo
M. Kayo
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Donor relations refer to the efforts of a charity or other non-profit organization to foster long-term relationships with donors who provide support. These efforts are also intended to ensure that gifts and financial support are put to the donor's intended use. The means by which a gift is accepted and the management of that gift is determined by a carefully executed donor relations policy. Once a donor provides a gift, it is the responsibility of the receiving organization to properly acknowledge the gift. Recognition of the donors is the last critical component in the donor relations process.

Organizations typically develop policies that deal with every aspect of donor relations including the acceptance and management of a gift or donation. These policies provide structures for various giving opportunities such as the amount necessary to establish an endowed fund or in what ways a donor's name is to recognized. For example, if a donation is at or above a certain level, the donor's name may be displayed on a plaque, building, or other place of prominence. These policies may also be designed to rectify a situation in which a donor's gift is not being used as intended or instructed by a donor. Policies such as these also provide direction for the use of gifts after a donor is deceased.

Proper acknowledgment of donors and their gifts is also an important part of the donor relations process. Acknowledgment of a gift is typically planned and directed by the receiving organization as a means to strengthen the relationship with the donor. Those who are the primary beneficiaries of a donor's gift may sometimes be called upon to provide some sort of personal, heartfelt acknowledgment. This might be in the form of a personal visit, letter, phone call, or other communication. Donor relations also include official acknowledgment through providing the proper receipt and documentation required by most government revenue or taxing entities.

Donor recognition is the final element in donor relations. The methods by which meaningful recognition is handled should take into consideration such factors as a donor's personal preferences for publicity or anonymity. Recognition may come in many different forms such as inclusion in honor rolls, giving societies, donor walls, donor profiles, or events at which donors are publicly recognized. These events are intended to reinforce the connection with donors in that all important long-term relationship. Reporting the impact of a donor's gift on the mission of an organization is another critical part of donor relations.

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