Spotlight: Examples of Really Good Donor Recognition Societies

Thanks to my friend, Susan Rudd, in Bloomington, Indiana I ended up focusing the last 3-days on donor recognition societies. Please don’t misunderstand me . . . I am not complaining. I very much love annual campaigns and individual giving vehicles, and donor recognition societies are a very important tool for any resource development professional focused on individuals (which should be ALL of us because 75% of charitable giving comes directly from individuals).

As I wrote Wednesday and Thursday’s blog posts, I realized that I was focusing too much on institutions of higher education as examples of good donor recognition societies. So, I promised yesterday that I would end the week with some diverse examples from other non-profit sectors. Here are a few that I found that are worth your time reading about and mimicking:

The United Way’s Tocqueville Society — This donor recognition society is for donors giving $10,000 or more to the annual campaign. It is a very traditional approach, and local United Way chapters do a variety of different things to create a sense of engagement for donors belonging to this society. Most non-profit organizations who run annual campaigns have some version of this donor recognition society (e.g. Boys & Girls Clubs’ Jeremiah Milbank Society, etc)

The Boy Scouts of America rolled out a tiered donor recognition society for their Major Gifts program. Local councils are tasked with creating courtesies (aka membership benefits) for people donating to each of these societies. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that special patches and pins are part of Scouting’s benefits program for these societies.

  • James E. West Fellowship — This donor recognition society is focused solely on gifts to the endowment
  • Second Century Society — This society is more comprehensive and encourages large “major gifts” to operating, capital and/or endowment funds. It is flexible and covers outright gifts all the way through deferred ones.

The Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago developed a tiered donor recognition society named the Columbia Society for its annual campaign donors. The first tier of the society starts at $1,000 and the highest level is for $50,000 donors. Benefits/courtesies vary for each tier but include typical stewardship-based activities such as newsletters, events, etc.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) developed a similar tiered donor recognition society they called the Federal Club. As with the aforementioned Columbia Society, membership benefits include tickets to events, a special newsletter, and routine e-blasts with return on investment information on HRC’s lobbying efforts and community organizing.

One of the grand-daddies of all donor recognition societies is Rotary International’s Paul Harris Fellowship program. I’ve never seen any non-profit organization so focused on a donor recognition society as I have this one. As with all national programs, the local affiliates are responsible for making membership in this society feel special. However, Rotary International does a great job with recognizing its local affiliates for their work in securing repeat gifts and new donors. We can all learn a lot from Rotary’s work in this area.

Well, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but I think it is a good start. Does your agency have any fun and effective donor recognition societies that you can share with us? Do you know of any donor recognition societies that integrate stewardship opportunities into their society as benefits/courtesies? Please use the comment box below to weigh-in because we can all learn from each other.

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

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