• Michael Worth

    Some would make a distinction between donor clubs and societies. Clubs recognize donors for unrestricted gifts, i.e., they give to be “members” of the club. Societies recognize donors in tiers based on total giving, usually regardless of whether their gifts are restricted or unrestricted.
    There is indeed a lack of academic research on whether societies work. But they are generally accepted by practitioners as a valuable tool for upgrading gifts. Especially at the higher levels, donors do care about giving an “appropriate” amount and may be influenced by the where they stand compared to others on the list, for example, their classmates or other members of a board.
    I agree with the view that listing extensive benefits for donor societies is often ineffective and possibly even detrimental, if they convert a gift to a quid pro quo transaction in the minds of the donor. They can work against upgrading of an annual gift if the donor decides, for example, that it really isn’t worth an additional $500 to have a second lunch with the executive director every year!
    Donor-centric strategies are, of course, essential to build donor loyalty. Donor societies are not a fundraising strategy by themselves. But that is not to say that they have no value or should be abandoned.
    Michael J. Worth

  • Amy Eisenstein


    Great points! I say if a gift club helps organizations organize and think about how best to cultivate donors, then no harm done. And, maybe some donors like being recognized at specific levels or even take into account – I want to be listed in the bigger category, before making their next gift. So, as long as gift clubs motivate organizations to be more thoughtful in terms of their cultivation strategy, and possibly motivate donors too,… I’m all for them!


  • Simone Joyaux

    Thanks for your comments. As you see in the column, I am not talking about recognizing donors by gift amounts (or gift categories or whatever we want to call them). I’m talking about benefits attached to these.

    Donor recognition is important in our work – if donors want to be recognized, of course. It is not uncommon that social justice organizations choose not to recognize donors by gift amount. Social justice organizations may choose to list donors in alpha order. It’s an interesting conversation to have in an organization … about values and donors and gift size.

    The most important point, I think, is to intentionally explore, gather information, and decide. Just following what everyone else has always done – or what one’s own organization has always done – isn’t a strategy.

    Thanks again for the comments.