The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

It’s Time to Retire the Reception

Wine and cheese tastings. Fancy dinners. Receptions.

What do all these events have in common? They are generic. Any nonprofit can host these events. They are not special to your donors. They are not especially meaningful.

To paraphrase Lynne Wester, The Donor Relations Guru, in our popular Nonprofit 911 webinar: Donors gave you money. They can buy themselves dinner. Hosting an event to honor and recognize your donors is good practice, but make sure that the face to face experience you give them is unique to your organization.

So what kind of donor experience do I recommend? I want to see more unique, memorable, heart-warming experiences. Create an event, an interaction, or an entire day that allows your donors to learn about your organization and gives them an understanding and appreciation for how you are using their investment.

LexyTo help get your ideas flowing, I asked a fundraising pro (and personal friend) Alexis Lux, CFRE and VP of Development for the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City, to share some donor experience ideas:

So why should a nonprofit host “donor experiences”?

Alexis: These experiences should bring a donation to life. You want this experience to feel priceless to them but it shouldn’t really cost you much. It creates a closer connection to the nonprofit.

Can you give examples of specific donor experiences hosted for one donor or just a few?

I have three examples that were unique experiences for major donors:


1) When I was in the development department at a heritage museum we invited a major donor to the summer camp the museum hosted. He actually led a lesson for the campers!

2) When I raised money for a community boathouse foundation, we would name a new boat after a major donor and they had the opportunity to christen it in the traditional way (with champagne). Later, I would send them a photo of our youth team training with their boat on the river.

3) I also helped university scholarship donors meet the students they were supporting. I tried my best to partner the students and the donors by similar interest. One of our donors, an older women who loves the theatre, had a wonderful time getting to talk to a theatre student and heard firsthand about one of the upcoming shows

Lexy on HorsebackWhat about a donor experience that would be appropriate for a larger group of mid-level donors?

Well, at the YMCA we host a cancer survivor support group and we invite donors to attend the sessions. I even attended once and we did chair yoga! It was a lot of fun and wasn’t anything “extra” that I had to plan.

Also, at the museum we had a private “artist talk” before each exhibit opened. It was pretty cool to have a famous artist give our donors a tour and explain his inspiration for each piece that was included in the gallery.

Any other things to keep in mind when it comes to hosting these types of experiences for donors?

I know my future is full of more galas & wine/cheese receptions than I want to admit, but it’s so much more meaningful when donors can see their gift in action. I encourage all nonprofit leaders to get creative when it comes to the way you interact with donors!

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Thanks to Lexy for sharing examples of unique donor experiences! I hope that you’re inspired! Need help thinking of donor experiences your nonprofit could host? Have examples that have worked for your nonprofit? Share your questions and ideas in the comments below.

For more on donor relations and why your organization should rethink how you relate to all your supporters, download the archived presentation, Transform Your Donor Relationships.

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi
Content Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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