The British aren’t very good at looking after their donors. The Australians, Canadians and Americans do it better.
We like to ask individuals, companies, trust and foundations for money; then (usually) we thank them; and then we forget about them until the next time we want their money.
The Chairman of Governors at a school where I ran a capital campaign some years ago was a distinguished academic who had done a Masters’ degree at an American University. Every year since then, the University had invited him back for a dinner and thanked him for his previous support each time. But they only asked him for a donation every 7th year. This combination of frequent thanks coupled with much less frequent requests for money was hugely successful.
For many small charities, organising dinners, receptions and thank-you parties is probably an extra chore and an expense they can well do without.
But putting some time and effort into such activities does pay dividends. Not only is it important to thank people in this way, but it is also good to show funders how their grants or donations are being spent, and the difference their gifts have made to disabled people, orphaned children, abandoned animals – or other important causes.
Some trusts do not attend charity days on the basis if they cannot attend them all, they should not attend any. But they will nonetheless be pleased to have been invited. Others will attend; and in my experience frequently go on to make larger grants as a result of seeing what their previous contributions have achieved. A frequent comment is: “We had no idea XYZ charity did so much” for their beneficiary group.
Trustees and managers need to be mindful that too generous or frequent parties for donors will be seen as a misuse of charity funds. However, this shouldn’t be a problem if the benefits are clearly explained and every effort has been made to get sponsorship for food, drink and any other expenses from local businesses.
So try a modest reception for some of your larger donors and give them the opportunity to see what their grants are achieving. If that works well, consider regular thank-you opportunities which will cement your donor relationships without overloading your Trustees, staff and volunteers.