Donors are at the heart of nonprofit organizations. They regularly demonstrate their support, but how can you show gratitude back?
Eventually, thank you notes stop feeling like they’re enough, and that’s where nonprofit donor appreciation gifts come in.
Donor appreciation gifts play a critical role in stewarding your relationships with donors. In this article, you’ll learn about the 9 best donor gifts in 2023 to help you understand how to show appreciation to your nonprofit donors.
Why is Giving Back to Nonprofit Donors Important?
So much of a nonprofit’s daily activities center around fundraising.
After all, you can’t do what you do without money. Every day, you’re thinking about innovative new ways that you can raise more funds—once a campaign wraps up, you’re planning for the next one.
Perhaps, you’re looking at your donor base to identify major gift prospects. You’ve got goals to hit, and soliciting your existing donors is one way you can do so. The problem is you don’t want to over-solicit them. They will start to feel like they are just a check to you.
That’s where creative donor gifts come in.
Showing appreciation to nonprofit donors helps cultivate your relationships with them. And your relationships with your donors are what keep them engaged in your organization. Fostering these relationships deepens your connection with them and helps them feel valued.
The more personal the nonprofit donor appreciation gift is, the better. Doing so will help your donors feel special, and when donors feel special, it’s more likely that they will continue to give and even increase their giving over time.
What to Avoid When Choosing Nonprofit Donor Appreciation Gifts
When you’re learning how to choose gifts for donors, you also want to understand what kinds of gifts to avoid.
While there are no hard and fast rules (what may work for one nonprofit could fall flat at another), here are three tips to help you determine what to avoid when picking out gifts for your donors.
1. Overgeneralizing your Donor Base
Don’t assume all donors want to be recognized similarly.
Instead, take a look at your demographics. Consider giving different gifts if your donor base is split into different age groups. Younger demographics may enjoy a t-shirt, while older donors may appreciate a coffee mug.
When in doubt, put out a survey! Ask their opinion on how they want to be recognized and plan your strategy accordingly. If you’d rather not do something so formal, ask peers how they recognize their donors.
2. Overspending on your Gifts
As you consider how to choose gifts for donors, set a strict budget. And as hard as it may be, stick with it.
Here’s the thing. Your donors want to see their money going to good use. What they don’t want to see is you misusing their funds on extravagant gifts.
If possible, tie your gifts to the larger impact of your mission. For example, maybe you run a food pantry and decide to send a packet of seeds with a short thank you note, explaining how their gift helped feed a certain number of families by helping them start their own vegetable gardens.
3. Focusing Only on the Tangible
When nonprofits consider how to give gifts to donors, they often make the mistake of only focusing on the tangible. Their minds first jump to things like branded merchandise, and there is certainly a time and a place for that; however, donors are often inspired by seeing the work of the nonprofit they support in action.
For example, if you run a women’s shelter, you could offer a tour of the campus and programming. Or maybe there’s a beloved staff member or alumni at your organization, and in that case, you could offer an exclusive meet and greet.
You can get creative with your nonprofit donor appreciation gifts! Often, these experiences are the ones that go over the best with donors because they’re priceless.
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Now that you know what not to do, let’s look at some of the best donor gifts in 2023. These gift ideas should help your donors feel valued and increase their overall engagement in your organization.
1. Welcome Package for New Donors
Start by welcoming your donors into the fold with an exclusive welcome package. As part of the welcome package, you can send a thank you letter or a postcard featuring individuals who have benefited from your organization and from your donor’s support.
If they’re higher donors, you could include a reusable cup or an exclusive t-shirt design. Get creative as you work within your budget to offer new donors gifts that welcome them into your organization’s family!
2. Branded Merchandise
T-shirts, mugs, cups, tote bags, pens, and notebooks—there’s no limit to the branded swag you can offer your donors as long as you have the budget to support it! And often, donors eat it up. They love to show their support, and branded gifts can help raise awareness of your cause. It’s really a win-win!
Charity races like St. Jude’s Children's Research Hospital do a great job of inspiring participants to fundraise for their cause. You have to guarantee a minimum fundraising amount to participate, and once you reach it, you’re eligible to receive a t-shirt or other swag. If you complete the race, you get a medal.
3. Coffee Table Book
If your nonprofit has a long history, you can put together a book that helps showcase the organization throughout the years and highlights the next generation of work that’s to come.
You could include details on something that’s important to your organization, like a beloved figure or time-honored tradition.
Shutterfly gives you great tips on how to design your coffee table book if you want to do it yourself, or you can always work directly with a printer if you want to outsource the work.
This keepsake is especially meaningful to highly engaged donors who are deeply invested in your organization.
4. Campaign-Specific Gift
If you’re in the middle of a campaign, your nonprofit donor appreciation gifts should be tied to its overall mission and tagline. For example:
If you’re renovating your new athletic center, consider a gift centered around a sport. You could give a picture of a mascot or an athletic t-shirt.
If you’re building a new music center, maybe people can sponsor or dedicate seats.
If you're funding a scholarship endowment, perhaps impacted students can send personalized thank you notes.
Be specific with your gifts and always tie them back to your goal when you can. Logo gear can only take you so far!
5. Personalized Gifts
Personalized gifts go over very well, especially when you’ve built a rapport with the donors. Maybe you send a small plant that your donor referenced they enjoyed, or a type of coffee you know is their favorite.
No one said that donor gifts must be standardized, so take the initiative to send something more personalized, especially for your higher donors. Remember that donors want to see the impact of their support, so as you write your thank you notes, consider integrating how their donation is being used.
6. Exclusive Event Opportunities
As you move away from physical items, consider if there are exclusive event opportunities that you can offer your donors.
Often, these events are reserved for the highest donors, and it’s a great opportunity to create a sense of pride and exclusivity. For example, you could arrange a dinner with the president or a networking reception with an industry leader.
Exclusive doesn’t always have to mean intimate. The Adler Planetarium does a great job of bringing hundreds of their closest friends together each year at their Celestial Bash. They share the impact of donations on their programming, highlight new shows, and honor incredible trailblazers.
One year, they even recognized American Astronaut Captain James A. Lovell, Jr., who was part of the Apollo 8 mission. They welcomed board members and guests to mingle with him and hear his stories firsthand.
Of course, these events also are an investment, but they’re powerful if you have the budget.
7. Social Impact Gifts
Your donors have invested in your organization, and now is the time to show them just how big of a difference they are making!
Here are some examples of social impact gifts you could give your donors to show them how impactful their support is:
Send a picture of an animal from your organization if your donor helped to sponsor an animal’s care. Give regular updates about the animal to help increase that connection. If possible, arrange a meeting for the biggest donors.
Share a postcard with meaningful stats about your organization. For example, if you’re focused on feeding the hungry, include visual representations of hunger stats, how much it costs to feed a family per week, and just how far their donation goes.
Send a bracelet or other goods manufactured out of recycled plastic if your organization is focused on cleaning the ocean.
Social impact gifts, much like event experiences, are priceless to donors. It’s why they’re doing what they’re doing, so it’s a great idea to recognize their efforts by showing their money in action. It’s incredibly meaningful when you can tie their gift directly to the good they’re making in the world.
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8. Name Recognition
Many donors are happy with name recognition in your annual report or on a plaque commemorating a certain fundraising opportunity.
Perhaps you have digital signage in your office to run a donor honor roll or add their names to a program as sponsors. Being personally and publicly thanked can be extremely rewarding for some donors.
9. Thank You Video
If you have a compelling story to tell, tell it! Thank your donors with a quick video, letting the individuals impacted by their gift do the talking.
Perhaps a donor endowed a scholarship, and you can have the chosen student record a video personally thanking them.
Maybe you just want a diverse group of staff and participants to say thank you in different languages or creatively through pictures. Perhaps it’s the holidays, and you want to express your gratitude and show the work in action.
Save the Children created a donor thank you video that does a great job of this, balancing appreciation with sharing real examples of the children and families their donors have helped support.
As nonprofit donor appreciation gifts go, the thank you video helps put faces to the excellent work they’re making happen. It helps personalize their support and makes them feel more connected to the cause.
Wrapping Up: 9 Best Nonprofit Donor Appreciation Gifts in 2023
The best donor gifts in 2023 vary by organization, so there’s no one-size-fits-all gift that will surprise and delight all your donors into giving more. You’ll have to learn what sets your donors apart from others and recognize them in ways they want to be recognized.
There are plenty of gifts—physical and intangible—that you can give to your donors, so don’t limit yourself. You have a lot to offer, so now is your chance to show them just why they picked you to invest in. For even more donor stewardship tips, check out our post on 11 strategies to build relationships with donors.
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