Donor Recognition or Stewardship?

In her seminal book Donor Centered Fundraising Penelope Burk laid out the case for the vital importance of good donor stewardship, using extensive research data showing the close connection between simple, personal stewardship (she is a particular advocate of calling donors – all donors – directly to say “thank you.”) and donor retention. She found that the simple act of calling and thanking donors, particularly first-time donors, dramatically improved retention rates.

Burk also argued that stewardship should not be confused with recognition – names on walls, etc. – and that what donors want is quality stewardship demonstrating that their giving has made a difference. If stewardship is done well, according to Burk, there’s little need for recognition. I’ve worked with a few nonprofits who have really embraced this philosophy; some have ditched the annual report of donors altogether. What a relief not to have to worry about getting angry phone calls from donors who didn’t like the way their name appeared in a publication!

In this article from a slightly different perspective emerges. According to the author, billionaires are quite taken with the idea of being very public about their giving. I wonder if things are starting to shift in that direction overall, or is this just an ego-oriented behavior of the mega-rich?