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Donor Recognition – And a Child Shall Lead Them – Tracy Ebarb

Donor Recognition

Donor recognition is a frequent conversation among fundraising professionals. There are many schools of thought concerning this activity and most agree that some type of recognition is proper, if not necessary, for every gift, regardless of size or type. Some donors even base their gift on the promise of a certain type of recognition, like the naming rights to a building or an endowed Chair at a University. Others may want to be included in an annual report that lists all supporters of an organization (sometimes giving a range of gifts, sometimes not) and they appreciate the recognition that it provides. Some like to be identified in other ways, like putting a sticker on their vehicle that shows their membership in an alumni association or support for a particular charity. All of us in the non-profit world know the power of a simple ‘thank you’ card or letter, and/or phone call when possible.

Truth of the matter is – all donors need and deserve to be recognized for their generosity, it’s a given. And, there’s a lot of ways we can recognize and honor a person’s charitable acts, but I witnessed one this past weekend that I don’t see often enough.

Here’s my best donor recognition story ever: At my home Church (Presbyterian), every week we take up two offerings – one for the general financial and mission needs of the Church, and the second, called the Noisy Offering, is for special mission projects both local and international. The Noisy Offering gets its name from the actual method/vehicle used for the collection – small tin buckets, passed around by children and sometimes adults. Church members drop loose change into these little tin buckets as the children carry them throughout the Sanctuary and guess what – it’s noisy! and it’s fun!


Here’s what happened: This past weekend, a cute little girl, I’m guessing around 3yrs old, was proudly passing around her bucket. As she approached one of our members who had her hand outstretched with coins at the ready, the little girl smiled, the donor dropped the coins, the tin bucket clanged like symbols and then the little girl yelled at the top of her voice – YAAAAYYYYYY! She went to the next person, and once again – coin drop, clanging and YAAAAYYY!

I think on average, probably half of those of us attending on a given Sunday show up with change in our pockets (I rarely ever have any coins!), but after this little girl began to show how much she appreciated the gifts…everyone started digging for coins (I had to resort to folding money and shake the bucket, not quite as satisfying…). True to form, the little girl did not discriminate, every person she took coins from got a cheer! And every donor that she connected with sat a little straighter and prouder in their pew, fascinating, huh?

I can’t count the number of seminars, webinars, workshops, talks, etc. that I’ve participated in to learn about donor recognition, I’ve read books too, several of them. And then this little girl…well, you know…

…may we go and do likewise.

Tracy S. Ebarb, CNE, CDE, CNC

Donor Recognition – And a Child Shall Lead Them was written by Tracy Ebarb, Veteran Fundraiser and National Association of Nonprofit Organizations & Executives’ International Director. Tracy’s journey in the nonprofit world began in the early 80’s through his service on Church Staff as Youth Minister, Associate Pastor, Church Administrator, Director of Development and Stewardship and Senior Pastor. Tracy joined the renowned consulting firm of Cargill & Associates in 1998, designing and conducting over 60 Capital Stewardship Campaigns raising over $50 million dollars. As an independent Consultant, Tracy has traveled extensively overseas raising funds and working to develop humanitarian projects in the African nations of Sierra Leone, Malawi and Zambia, and the Central American nations of Nicaragua, Haiti and Honduras. As well as consulting and developing Capital Fundraising Campaigns in over 75 churches and nonprofits across the US. Until recently, Tracy has guided the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame as the Director of Business Development. He has recently accepted the position of Senior Counselor at Development Systems International.

1 Comment

  1. Becky Carter says:

    Dear Tracy,
    I LOVE your writing. I have just stumbled across NANOE and will be joining soon. I will also be working to gain at least two professional designations, and maybe three. The story of the little girls reminds me of a podcast I heard by a Psychiatrist talking about our self image, or self regard. This Dr. suggested that at even the smallest thing we accomplish we should say, loudly YAAAY ME! After reading this piece, I’m also going to start saying: YAAAY YOU!
    Becky Carter

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