Happy Birthday to ME! And what can non-profits do with THAT?

Yesterday, one of my favorite non-profit executive directors took the time to wish me an early happy birthday and surprised me with a bottle of wine — La Crema Pinot Noir. It was a thoughtful gesture because my partner and I are big “winos”.

The reason I bring it up today can be summarized in one simple word:


Over the last decade, my partner and I have personally contributed $40,000 to this non-profit organization. In addition to our money, we’ve both contributed our time by helping with special events and working pledge cards for their annual campaign. To say “we’ve drank the Kool-Aid” is probably an understatement.

While we both like to hear about this organization’s program outcomes and community impact, we really get more excited when we hear testimonials or success stories. In other words, numbers and stats are nice, but stories are the payday we crave more than anything.

While the bottle of wine was very thoughtful and much appreciated, a simple birthday card probably would’ve sufficed. A phone call would’ve been really nice, especially if the conversation would’ve included a recent fun success story. The bottom line is that the birthday wishes from this non-profit organization sends a clear message that I’m a valued part of their family. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like being thought of that way.

As I bask in the after-glow of this stewardship touch, I find myself wondering what else could non-profit organizations do around a donor’s birthday? The following is a short, incomplete list representing just a few thoughts:

  • Send them a birthday card or call them . . . make sure to weave in a story about how their support makes a difference for your clients
  • If the donor doesn’t like “gift giving and receiving,” then this could be a tribute gift opportunity for your agency. This is, of course, where the donor tells their friends that in lieu of a birthday gift they’d appreciate contributions be made to your non-profit organization instead.
  • If your agency runs a “birthday club” for clients, then there might be an opportunity to fold donors into the same program using birthday recognition walls or inviting them to attend an organization-wide birthday party where they can interact with clients.
  • It could be an opportunity to turn a major donor’s birthday into a special event tribute party. The Elgin Symphony Orchestra is doing exactly this in a few weeks by inviting supporters to purchase tickets and attend a birthday bash for Harry Blizzard who is one of their biggest donors and supporters.

What does your non-profit organization do for donors around their birthdays? How do you go about capturing birth dates from donors? What systems do you use to remind yourself of this information? Please scroll down and use the comment box to answer a few of these questions.

Here’s to your health!  (Oh, and thanks for the wine, Rose!)

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC


  1. Hi Erik,

    I work with Dave Trehey in MN. He was sharing some of the things you did to raise awareness and enthusiasm when you worked with him – great ideas! Would you be willing to tell me more about how you made things so successful? I’ll leave my email and went can connect phone numbers from there.

  2. Send a birthday card? Not to me, please. If I get a birthday card from folks who have no reason to know my birthday I know that they got it by stalking me online and finding my DOB in a consolidator’s database, likely taken from Facebook or Motor Vehicles Dept information or some other database that unfortunately is made available far and wide. To me, getting your card is spooky and downright offensive, and having DOB flying around facilitates identity theft. It doesn’t make me feel better about any charity that scouts out my info and uses it in an obviously phony ploy to seem like my new best friend. Just do your good deeds and tell me about them, thank you. Leave me and my birthday out of it.

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