National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
Partnership header Great Sand Dunes staff with partners (USFS, Bureau of Reclamation, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, USGS, Colorado Natural Heritage Program, NatureServe and The Nature Conservancy) on the close out meeting for a newly completed map and classification of the park and surrounding area's vegetation

Recognizing Individuals

Recognizing individuals should be personal whenever possible. In addition to sending timely letters, write a personal note, call the donor, pay a visit, or invite them to visit the park. Make sure in your recognition that you emphasize:

  • What their gift has achieved in the park
  • How a program was enabled
  • How many visitors the gift has benefited

Recognition is very important to donors and there are lots of ways you can do this:

  • Treat donors like honored and valued friends - invite them to functions
  • Provide special tours on occasion
  • Connect donors to field staff
  • Make sure they are able to spend time with people in the field doing hands-on park work

The most important donor motivation is that people want to have confidence that their donation is helping the needs of the park or park program. For larger donations, the scale of the recognition is much less important than the scale of recognition vis--vis other donations.

The best recognition for donors is giving them the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with the park and staff and feel part of the park mission. Park staff shouldn't underestimate the impact of sharing stories of how the park has personally impacted them. It provides an opportunity for donors to develop an emotional connection between the park resources and programs and themselves through park staff. Donors also recognize how precious time is. They value time with park staff to become inspired, informed and involved by their insights and expertise.

Personal contact is a strong form of recognition. The more a donor learns about a park, the more likely they are to give to a specific park project or program that they identify with. For example, Yellowstone NP has donors that give exclusively to help their wolf research and management. Donors become highly informed about the wolves, and their passion is reflected in their contributions for the wolf project. Park biologists take time to help donors become informed. The donors value the special status they receive by the virtue of what they are learning and the project progress reports donors get which gives them a sense of a shared insider's knowledge.

Time with a superintendent is the most prized form of recognition, especially when a superintendent takes the time to shake hands and sit down for dinner to impart stewardship ethics that say donors are important.

Recognition events are part of the personal touch in an effective donor recognition program. Events allow you to highlight the value, purposes and outcomes of a gift and can inspire others to give.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy organized a recognition event for George Sarlo shown in the photo below. George emigrated from Hungary and became a successful businessman in the United States. He never forgot his experience of being an immigrant and donated $1 million for the creation of Immigrant Point, a scenic overlook with a view of the Golden Gate through which so many west coast immigrants arrived. The recognition event at the point included a citizenship ceremony which was very meaningful to him. The event led to his interest in additional gifts. George obviously enjoyed the event with his family and friends.

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