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How to Give Great Gifts

When my chavrusah was a kid, he used to ask his parents for things. Fancy this, cool that, you name it.

When it got too much, they would try to turn off the requests by quoting Mishlei: “Sonei matanos yichyeh,” “He who hates gifts shall live.”

His response (smart kid): “Yeah, but the person who loves gifts will REALLY live!”

Point being - people love gifts. It’s just part of our nature.

When you’re in fundraising, you know - gifting donors smartly can do wonders for your relationship.

John Ruhlin, author of Giftology, gives excellent insights as to how to gift in ways that make you stand out from the crowd. He explains that when you give someone a personalized, meaningful gift, they’re hard-wired to appreciate it.

They’re also hard-wired to reciprocate with their own gift. Like their money.

So. Want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your donor gifts?

Take a look at this simple 5-part checklist: 


1. What to give?

Remember - John Ruhlin wants our gift to be “personalized” and “meaningful.”

Let’s talk “personalized” for a minute. A great way to make a gift feel personal is by researching your donor’s interests and speaking to them with your gift.

So, what’s your donor into? Is he a baseball fan? Does he collect seforim? Is he a whiskey connoisseur? What about art - does he appreciate that?

Match your gifts to his interests. That’s serious personalization - even if you don’t get his name embroidered on his new painting (definitely don’t do that).

An alternative approach that plays heavily on the “meaningful” factor: Gift in ways that create connection to your organization’s mission.

Do you do Holocaust education? A beautiful pre-war Judaic artifact might be just the thing.

Do you take care of special-needs individuals? Have them decorate or even create some part of the gift. 


2. What kinds of gifts give you the most mileage?

Rulin’s advice: “Your gift should be a conversation-starter, which will allow you to stay on top of someone’s mind.”

Back to that art piece - if it’s hanging on your donor’s dining room wall, and people ooh and ah at it whenever they walk in, guess what they’ll all be schmoozing about for the next few minutes?

Another way to get your gift into conversations - make it something your donor will be proud to be seen using. A personalized lucite shtender or a beautiful challah cover might fill the bill nicely.

A few more points on the practical side - people often like useful gifts. And they don’t like tchachkes that add clutter to their lives. So make sure you’re giving something that will serve a frequently useful purpose. 


3. How much to spend?

This isn’t an easy-answer question. Ultimately, it comes down to people’s perception of your organization - and your donors’ expectations.

If you’re a chesed organization, people expect you to spend less on them than if you’re a national outreach organization. And, if your donors are used to elegant gifts, you pretty much need to meet their standards.

One golden rule that applies to everyone: choose the most refined item within your budget.

If you’re giving something very small, consider the fact that a handwritten note on nice stationery is much more “personalized” and “meaningful” than a cheap pen with your logo.

If you’ve got a higher budget, it’s generally good to go for practical yet luxurious over flashy. 


4. When to give?

You know the times of year when everyone gifts their donors. They all send mishloach manos. They also like to send gifts along with their "shana tova" wishes.

I’m not saying not to gift your supporters then.

I am saying, however, that you’ll get the best response if you gift at unexpected times.

Try to find smart but quiet times to send gifts. That way, yours won’t get lost in the rest of the paraphernalia piling up in your living room. 


5. To logo or not to logo?

It’s tempting to put your logo on every gift you give, so donors remember your organization.

Remember, though, that when you’re gifting, you want to focus on your donor, not on you. Back to what we call being “donor-centric.”

Some items lend themselves well to logos. Others don’t. So decide carefully. And if you do put your logo on a gift, make sure it’s not too obtrusive.

Once again, back to “personalization” - if you must emboss your gift with something, your donor’s name will probably get you more mileage than your logo.

Happy gifting!

Have a great week.


Copyright © 2024 Avraham Lewis & Co.