Engaging donors who don’t want recognition

Every once in awhile we come across a donor who is extremely generous and at the same time very private.  They don’t want publicity or recognition of any kind.  They just want to quietly help a cause that they are passionate about.


I applaud people like that for their selfless acts of kindness!

But, it does make it a bit more difficult to steward and cultivate them, at least in some of the usual ways.

We recently received a substantial donation from a family to build an entire lab including cutting-edge equipment, supplies, and maintenance of the facility.  Normally this type of major gift elicits a naming opportunity, media coverage, and special invitations to exclusive university events…..just to name a few.

This family fits into the private donor category I described above.  They came in recently to tour the lab and told me that they absolutely do not want their name on the lab – they are just happy that their donation will benefit others.  We told them how the lab is a game-changer for the university.  Not only will it enable cutting-edge research for faculty and students, it will be available for community use as well.  They left looking satisfied, fulfilled, and very happy!

But, what now?  We want to engage them but not intrude on their privacy.

Here’s a few thoughts:

  • Continue to invite to events, but limit the number. And, most importantly personalize the invitation instead of sending via mass e-mail or snail mail.
  • Build on their areas of interest. When this family was visiting the lab they mentioned that they hadn’t toured the campus in quite awhile. They were specifically interested in the new knowledge center. I found out when they will be in town again and invited them on a personal tour the campus…..they were thrilled with that idea.
  • Utilize already existing connections. In this case, the family worked with one of our faculty members extensively in the past and established a wonderful relationship with him. This connection could be the conduit for future meetings.

Every donor is different.  And, treating them all the same can be a huge mistake.  It’s important to be able to recognize that fact and then personalize your stewardship and cultivation program to fit their individual needs.

Photo Credit:  Thank you


About dknotek2015

I am a Development Director for the College of Science at the University of Nevada, Reno. Having worked in the Development and Alumni Relations Department for the past eight years, I have a unique background in development, philanthropy, and relationship building. I am a University of Nevada, Reno alum as well as a current MBA candidate. You could say I am silver and blue through and through! I am passionate about helping others. I understand how important education is to our local community, the nation, and the world. I remember struggling as a student to finish my own education, and how grateful I was when I received support through the generosity of others. As a professional, I excel at securing private donations which support the students, faculty, programs, and research of the College of Science. I am uniquely qualified to bring potential donors together with areas about which they are passionate and feel compelled to support.
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