Q: What are your thoughts about including an annual roll of donors in a (printed) annual report? Our staff is split 50/50 on whether that is still useful, necessary, or appropriate. Thanks.

Katie Benston, Dir. of Annual Support
Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region
Charlotte, NC

A: This is a very common question! We all know we’re supposed to thank donors. (Although it seems few nonprofits actually do!)

I have no idea why anyone would think a donor list in an existing annual report would be inappropriate. After all, you’d only include donors who’ve given permission (otherwise they’d ask to be anonymous).

So if you already do a printed annual report, I’d say print the list! Lists give people an excuse to look — if only for their own name. And if you tier the donors by giving category, some may be motivated to boost their giving.

Some organizations are moving away from annual reports because of the cost of printing and mailing. You may want a smaller annual report. Or add the annual report to something useful, like a calendar. Or design it to use it as a year-round marketing piece.

But here’s a word of caution: resist the urge to go 100% digital.

I was on the board of a national nonprofit association that went all digital in its communications. We lost so many people. For 65 years, we’d trained people to get used to seeing mail from us. When that stopped coming, they’d figured we’d ceased to exist. Plus, we didn’t get updated addresses because emails don’t often come with “return service requested.”

If you do create a printed list, just know you’ll always make mistakes. No matter how hard you try, someone will be listed wrong or someone’s name will be wrong.

I used to think this was a reason to discontinue the list. But no more. Adrian Sargeant reports that donors who complain and have their complaint addressed actually become more loyal to the nonprofit!

So go ahead, print the list! Let those donors, and your entire community, know you’re grateful!

[Do you have a question about nonprofits or fundraising that you’d like considered for Question Marc? Send it to marc@fundraisingcoach.com.]

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