I worked at a college within a large university and impactful gifts flowed in regularly. While it was common for the school to get multiple $50,000, $100,000 and $500,000 gifts, our team was wonderful  recognizing the gifts and properly celebrating the gifts with the donor.  Our team leader was stellar at stewarding our alumni/friends.

Let me demonstrate this with an example.

My colleague (who I will call Ellen in this story) had just secured a large gift from an alumni for our new building.  The Alumnae had been active in the school and had given some over the course of his involvement but not to the extent of this gift.  This was a meaningful gift for his family. He was proud to do it and was excited about the new building.  Ellen had worked with him for months on what space was going to be meaningful to his family and had found the “right” place for them to underwrite. This family had chosen to not name the area after their family but use the naming rights to honor a student. This is the type of family they are. They do not like to brag and shy away from the limelight. They just wanted to do something for their university.

Our team leader (who I will call “John”) wanted to make sure that the school celebrated the gift and that the celebration fitted their personality.  A check presentation would not work for them and sending flowers  to their house was not enough.  He needed to figure out something special for them.

Over the course of their conversations, Ellen observed that the family had decided on the gift. They involved their young adult children in the process.  John and Ellen decided that however they celebrate it, the entire family needs to be involved.

The school has a very special place that is not accessible to everyone; it is a place that looks over the campus and is mostly used by the President of the University.  John worked his magic and got permission to host a small dinner for the family in this special place.  Ellen knew what type of foods the family enjoyed and even knew the wife’s favorite flowers and had them as the centerpiece.

The entire family, along with the dean of the school, had a lovely dinner together and it was truly meaningful to them.

Why do I tell you this story?  Because a good major gifts officer picks up on these special things.  Most of the things that made this meaningful is because Ellen listened to the family and took notes.  She knew the food they enjoyed and that the wife loved orchids. Obviously, the wife’s favorite flower was not a part of the “ask” (or as I like to say, “invitation”) but it made the celebration very special.

Make sure you have you are capturing all the information about your donors in your CRM so that when it comes time to thank them, you know what will be special to them. It is the little things that will make the biggest impact.