Do you treat your donors like rock stars?

Pirate ball

Pirate ball

A couple weeks ago, my band got a last-minute gig at a pirate festival in Florida. The organizers paid for our flights, hotel, and a little extra money to cover our various expenses while we were there. Awesome!

On Saturday night, there was a pirate's ball. Having been to a few pirate festivals, I was expecting the usual crowd of drunks in eye patches, but I was surprised to find the ball entirely consisted of honest-to-gosh fans of the pirate subculture. They were decked out in the nicest pirate finery (no Legg Avenue pirates to be seen, thank heaven). When our band got done performing our set, we were swarmed by the audience, people offering to buy us drinks and telling us how awesome we were. We ended up partying with them for a few hours, until we had to rest and get ready for the next day of the festival.

I've been in a pirate band for two and a half years now, but I've never felt like more of a rock star. It's a good feeling. It's a feeling of being appreciated and liked. It's the feeling your donors should get, particularly your top-level donors.

What are you doing to treat your donors like rock stars?

Go beyond form-letter thank you notes

Realizing the importance of economies of scale, I have to admit I still much prefer receiving a hand-written thank-you note to a form letter in the mail. takes that one step further, sending donors updates and photos from the classrooms they helped.

KaBOOM! occupies the kids during playground build days by having them write thank you notes for the people who sponsored the playground. (And sometimes, they write letters to KaBOOM!, too.)

Make a personal connection

Collect some basic information about your donors that will allow you to customize your email outreach in particular ways. For example, if you work for an animal shelter, you can find ask for people's favorite animal when they sign up for your e-newsletter (i.e. cats vs. dogs). Then, when you send your e-newsletter, you can create two different versions - one with a photo of a cat, and one with a photo of a dog. This is just a basic example, but it's one way to make more personal connections on a large scale.

If you're actually going to meet with a donor or potential donor in person, take a few minutes to Google that person, look them up on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and see what kinds of info you can gather to help find ways of connecting your organization's mission to what they're passionate about in their life. Just a few minutes of research could increase your chances of success - and it'll make that person feel cared for. (Just be careful not to take this into the realm of "stalking.")

Give major events the personal touch

Your organization probably has a fundraising event or two each year (or perhaps more). Wouldn't it be great to include some kind of tribute to your donors in the form of a video (perhaps a few interviews with top donors) or a small, personalized gift?

And even beyond that, really consider how your major events are perceived by participants, and go out of your way to make them truly enjoyable. The Human Rights Campaign, for example, does an excellent job in making their galas entertaining by carefully choosing their speakers and not letting anyone speak for more than 10 minutes or so. There are breaks between speakers for music or humorous bits, and they really, truly pamper those in attendance with goody bags, a fun after party, and other nice perks.

How does your organization treat its donors like rock stars? Post your ideas in the comments.