By Sean Kosofsky, is the Nonprofit Fixer and founder of Mind the Gap Consulting. He offers courses, consulting, and coaching to transform your organization and your leadership.

Nonprofit organizations have a lot of challenges relating to fundraising. Nonprofits need every tool possible to entice donors to join and then stick around for years. Some organizations use donor perks or benefits to do this.

One way to create a major donor program or donor perks system is to replicate one from another organization. If you are copying it to the letter, ask permission. If you are using another nonprofit’s program as an inspiration, there is no need to do so. But if you are using their language or really innovative elements, you should credit them. Consult with an attorney if you plan to do this.

Get creative. You can collaborate with other nonprofits in your region or in your issue area to investigate whether you can all offer benefits for each other. For example, if you join a modern art museum, there is a good chance you won’t have to pay admission to other modern art museums. You just need to show proof of membership.

As you create or adapt your donor benefits, you may find the list compiled below helpful. Use the list to augment or inform your own strategy. It can be helpful to lead a planning process within your own organization that examines your organizational assets and access so you can translate them into benefits. These assets can include:

Your organization’s reputation: There may be prestige and reputational benefit to simply being affiliated with your organization. Don’t forget the legitimizing effect of being a part of a nonprofit organization.

Audience size, breadth, and depth: If your organization has big lists, lots of traffic to your website or blog or social media pages, or big crowds at events, there are many ways to turn this into a donor benefit.

Creative stuff: Things unique to your organization including the ability to create art, music, poetry, dance, etc. Does anyone carve, knit, sew or create t-shirts… or fun food?

Knowledge: Subject matter expertise, research, polling, case studies

Experiences: People love getting to do something unique, interesting, and valuable, even more than they like “things.” Lots of research shows that donors don’t want the organization to spend money on free merchandise. It is seen as wasteful overhead.

Connections: Relationships to lawmakers, celebrities, newsrooms

History: Simply being around a long time has some cachet and may mean you have access to historical wisdom, knowledge, and records.

Files: Is your organization the holder of the official record of something? Do you have the news clippings of major events in your files?

Convening authority: If you convene coalitions or conferences or other thought leaders this can be a powerful asset that creates trust and reputation as being an essential player in your sector.

Some of the items on this list may not seem like perks, but they are ways to make donors feel special or connected.

A creative fundraiser can make any of these items sound attractive to the donor. Every tactic here is as much about retention and appreciation as it is about perks.


Many sponsors and donors want recognition for their support. Sometimes the recognition is transparent and transactional, like when the money is in the form of a sponsorship from a company’s marketing budget.

In other cases, the organization and the donors want to send a message to other donors that this organization has broad and deep support. Some donors look for these signals of community support (everybody’s doing it) to make the decision that they would be in good company if they donate. For events, ongoing series, or recurring celebrations online, consider the following options for publicity:

1.  Mention the donor on the event web page.

2.  Mention the donor on a dedicated webpage for X number of days.

3.  Mention the donor in the footer of all web pages for a month or longer.

4.  News release mentioning the benefactors.

5.  Asking a feature writer or columnist to do a piece on the donors (human interest).

6.  A dedicated blog post about the sponsorship.

7.  A dedicated blog post about a donor’s journey toward supporting the organization.

8.  Mention the donor in emails directly about the event they sponsored.

9.  Mention the donor in emails year-round relating to the program they supported.

10.  Mention the donor in a dedicated email blast or several. This can be 4 emails a year dedicated to sponsors who give the org $10K or more. These need not look like a commercial. They can be a video interview with the donor about the mission.

11.  Donors could be featured in your email newsletter 1x or multiple times. This could be a recurring “spotlight” section where you lift up the generosity of donors.

12.  Mention the donor in the footer of the email for 1 month or all year (patron status).

13.  Membership cards: Some people like being card-carrying members of a group.

14.  A set of screensavers and background images. Give away a zoom background that says “Ask me about my favorite nonprofit” or “Ask me where this background came from? Hint: It’s the XYY Soup Kitchen.” You can even have fun engaging your supporters and board members when coming up with these designs. Design them free on Canva.

15.  Posters are a great way to show off the name/logo of the donor at events or around your facility, house of worship, soup kitchen, community center.

16.  You can create small posters for sponsor businesses to show off that they are giving back and sponsoring your org, team, project, or campaign.

17.  Inclusion in the annual report along with a list of other donors.

18.  Inclusion in a page featuring major donors at a higher level. Photo and Bio.

19.  Inclusion in flyers, pamphlets, or other print materials.

20.  Community impact or commemorative wall. This can be a permanent wall with tiles or bricks.

21.  Community impact or donor recognition wall that exists on a whiteboard, chalkboard, foam core or some temporary board that you display in a lobby or other space a few times a year.

22.  Does your organization have a podcast or radio show for promotion?

23.  Does your organization stream live on Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo, or Facebook? Go live and thank the donors or go live with the donor.

24.  On your social media pages, “pin” or prioritize acknowledgments to donors.

25.  On your social media pages, “pin” or prioritize messages from donors.

26.  Shoutouts to donors on images and cover pictures. Text or attractively designed images on Twitter, Linkedin, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, Clubhouse, etc.

27.  Feature your donor images and quotes in social media advertising.

28.  Many of us are familiar with local businesses sponsoring local sports teams. The team gets t-shirts that show off the sponsor’s logo but are still made to look like jerseys or regulation outfits. Is there something like this you can try?

To build your organization’s bank account and volunteer base, you need a flourishing community of supporters. Social media platforms come and go, but emails belong to you! How can you grow your email list to activate and build your organization’s power? Download 54 Ways to Skyrocket Your Nonprofit Email List!


You may save some of these options for major donors, or sustainers, those who have given at least three years in a row, or donors who helped with a high stakes campaign like establishing a matching gift, putting the organization in their will, helping with a capital campaign or doing something else spectacular.

29.  Swag or merch: pins ranked by bronze, silver, gold based on giving level.

30.  Swag or merch: mugs, shot glasses, swizzle sticks, cozies, towels.

31.  Swag or merch: shirts, tanks, hats.

32.  Swag or merch: keychains, thumb drives, bracelets, magnets.

33.  Swag or merch: calendars, printables, planners, notebooks.

34.  Swag or merch: duffels, tumblers, water bottles, satchel, totes.

35.  Swag or merch: handmade item by someone helped by your charity. For example, a carved, sewn, painted, or drawn item by a regular volunteer or service recipient.

36.  Swag or merch: pick and design swag that directly relates to your charity. If you are a dog rescue nonprofit, can you create doggie poop bags that are sustainable and have your logo on them? If you are with a job training program, maybe you make a bookmark that is focused on job interview tips. If you represent an educational or social justice charity, maybe giveaway specialty decks of cards featuring important people from history. These exist already!

37.  Personal thank you letter from the founder, ED, chair, leadership powerhouses.

38.  Personal phone call from the founder, chair, ED.

39.  A digital member badge that can be shared on social media. These are icons or image overlays that you add to your profile picture the same way people do declare they voted, or donated blood, or got vaccinated. People love showing off that they are involved in important causes.

40.  Certificates of appreciation (printed). These can be framed, or laminated, and turned into a bookmark, placemat, or shrunk to be coasters.

41.  Certificates of appreciation (digital). These can be formatted as zoom backgrounds, sharable tiles/images/memes online, a Facebook cover image, or something small they can place in their electronic signature

42.  Using QR Codes you can send someone a unique QR code that they can place anywhere (resume, electronic signature, LinkedIn profile, Slack profile, etc.) that when scanned takes people to a page with the certificate, the organization, calls to action for the nonprofit, a donate button for the nonprofit so the donor gets credit for the gift, and images of the donor at the organization’s events.

43.  Phone call to the donor from a person impacted by the nonprofit.

44.  You can send a recorded voicemail to donors as a text message or as an automated dialing program. This may be used as a surprise benefit.

45.  Send a video or audio “thank you” through social media or email.

46.  New technology called “voicemail drop” allows an organization to place a voicemail in your voicemail box without ringing their phone. It is less intrusive but still delivers a “touch” to a donor from someone at your nonprofit.

47.  Welcome packet. This can include the history of the organization, testimonials, ways to access important documents or files held by the nonprofit, stories of impact, personalized swag, and a welcome letter, or more.

48.  Hand-written note from a person served by the organization.

49.  You can also send fun cards using Felt.

50.  Plaque or award.

51.  Name an award after them.

52.  Name a scholarship after them.

53.  Name a program after them.

54.  Name an event after them.

55.  Name something in your building after them like the conference table, the kitchen, the board room, or even a vestibule!

56.  Create a donor appreciation page on your website that exists year-round.

57.  Promote this page in your electronic signature link and have all staff and board members consider doing this.

58.  Promote this donor appreciation page in your auto-responder email messages when staff is away or every day.

59.  Promote this donor appreciation page as the generic response to the info@ general email inbox or all general email inboxes.

60.  Acknowledgement of donor milestones (weddings, engagements, births)

61.  Thank them on the anniversary of their gift, directly tying it to a win or impact. Do this without a solicitation.

62.  Send a pack of Lifesavers candy to the donor as a cute way of saying how much they are lifesavers. Shout out to Get Fully Funded!

63.  Snap a photo of the donor while at your facility or event and frame it and send it to them (also from Get Fully Funded).

Program-Related Perks

Sometimes an organization can look to its own programs and mission-related activities for perks. The work you do may be fascinating to donors or may have hidden value that you have overlooked.

64.  If your organization has a speaker’s bureau, mention donors in your remarks or slideshow presentations.

65.  Mention donors on signs or in remarks at lobby days, river clean-up days, etc.

66.  Mentions at different times and places during any festivals you host.

67.  As a way of appreciating a donor and making them feel connected…seek their input, or participation in any process you have giving away scholarships, even if the donor is just there to observe the process.

68.  Same for any grants, regrants, mini-grants, or loans you offer.

69.  Same for any prizes, contests, sweepstakes, drawings, or competitions (essay contests, spelling bees, etc.

70.  Plug donor skills into the work. (e.g. help to evaluate resumes of kids)

71.  Do you have a rehearsal, warm-up, or set-up process before an event? As a donor, I once was allowed to watch the male lead in “Beauty and the Beast” get into makeup and costume. It was super cool. Do you have something similar to offer possibly through a partnership with a local art collective or other nonprofit?

72.  Invitation to an intimate post-show, post-lecture, or post-keynote “talk-back.”

73.  Input sought during strategic planning or any community landscape assessment. Opportunities during the year to offer feedback on programs and branding.

74.  Input sought before any major decision. You don’t want donors thinking they are decision-makers, but you do want them feeling like they are included in the success of the organization. Be careful with how much access you promise donors.

75.  Observe your community research as it happens (polling, focus groups, town halls).

76.  Is your organization rebranding or creating a new program, logo, event, or adding staff? See if there are “stakeholder input” opportunities for donors.

77.  Free access to trainings or programs that normally have a fee.

78.  Access to calls or events with subject matter experts or thought leaders.

79.  Access to password-protected content like checklists for camping with kids or sample lesson plans for outdoor educators.

80.  Option to observe your programs in action. Show the work, don’t just tell.

81.  Touch the work. Can donors participate in building, feeding, clothing, digging, writing, driving, or anything else you do? Consider unique and fun opportunities during the year to participate directly in your impact.

82.  More than “observing, but less than “touching” is “interacting.” For example, your organization works with the land, animals, water, science, or more specific elements, like at a petting zoo, or a no-kill animal shelter, or nature preserve, give donors access if appropriate.

83.  Invite donors, at their own cost, to join you on excursions, site visits, field trips, expeditions, nature walks, or other travel needed to achieve the mission.

84.  Concierge registration/check-in (no-lines) at any event or service.

85.  After a campaign, event, or awesome thing you did, send clips and art and photos from behind the scenes and at the event or completion of a campaign.

86.  You can create a new benefit for donors simply by choosing to use language about their donation that deepens their commitment. Hear me out. Use warm values-based language and feelings into your messaging. “You will help our democracy when you…” or “these funds will raise the sophistication of our entire sector.” People like to consume information that validates good feelings about themselves. Showing that they are part of something bigger than the charity is a tactical move that not only explains a donor benefit but also helps them stay engaged.

87.  Does your organization do in-person or online trainings? Can you adapt the training for donors as a group teaching session? So, maybe four times a year you share a customized (or standard) version of the training just for funders.

88.  To stay accessible and relevant to your stakeholders, hold listening sessions during the year. You can use prompts to elicit the pros and cons of the organization or seek input on program expansion or get input on the organization’s website. The gesture sometimes matters more than the information gathered.

89.  A dog assistance charity in Michigan sends first-time donors 4 letters over the course of the year following the journey of a dog through certification. If the donor hasn’t given by the end of that year, they are invited to renew.

90.  First-time donors over $5k to that same dog assistance charity, were invited to name a litter and were sent a framed photo and electronic copy.

Events (publicity or other perks)

The events that nonprofits produce may have lots of opportunities to offer perks to donors. Some of these are similar to the publicity section up above for corporate sponsorships but this section goes has more options for individual donors too.

91.  Sponsors or major donors, whether they are in attendance or not for a major event, can share a pre-recorded video on stage.

92.  Much like a donor recognition wall for year-round support, you can create something specific, spectacular, and branded just for an event. Get creative.

93.  All print material produced to promote the event or used at the event is another opportunity for event publicity.

94.  Use events to make announcements of donations that happened earlier in the year or have no relationship to the event. Year-round gratitude is key.

95.  Offer access to a lounge before or after events with seating, beverages, and networking opportunities. Maybe the talent or keynote drops in to say hi.

96.  Any event you have, allow donors to come 30 minutes early for dedicated time with staff/board/speakers or other donors.

97.  Offer surprise drawings and contests during the year.

98.  Allow a major donor to introduce your keynote speaker at your gala, conference, or special event. Donors love proximity to special guests but they also appreciate your trust in letting them have the microphone.

99.  Advance notice of free and fee-based events (save the dates)

100.  Offer advance ability to buy tickets.

101.  Offer signage talking up your donors at free events.

102.  Offer better seating at free events.

103.  Offer the ability to upgrade seats or their section at free or fee-based events.

104.  At free events, they get a shout-out from the microphone or on T.V. monitors.

105.  If you have activities at events (photo booth, step and repeat, silent auction) see if there is something special you can do for donors. For example, time with the founders, or executive director or board chair, or the keynote in the photo booth.

106.  At galas or cocktail events offer the ability to distribute something on-message. For example, the donor gets to call out their favorite program or event, or service at the event via a postcard or at the microphone or on the monitors.

Access to Assets

Nonprofits have assets that they may overlook. This can include a building, or access to experts or cool technology or data, or historical archives. Check this section out and think creatively about what assets you have. Brainstorm with your team.

107.  Offer a tour of your building, space, or event venues.

108.  Offer a tour of your building or events or activities virtually for donors who can’t come in person and send to them as a link in a thank you email or text.

109.  If there is a building clean up or fix up day…invite them. Throw in beer and pizza and music and it can be fun.

110.  Offer early or personalized access to reports or research before they are released.

111.  Offer early access to a new logo, branding, design, or program launch.

112.  Invitation-only Facebook group.

113.  Invitation-only Slack Group.

114.  Invitation-only Google Group.

115.  Invitation-only to another online community.

116.  Family Lifetime memberships – When a donor joins an organization like the YMCA or a museum, can you extend the membership to the entire household.

117.  Can your membership to an organization be shared with one friend…maybe during one month of the year along with the perks?

118.  The ability to buy a ticket for one additional person (much cheaper than another ticket) giving them the perks the donor has for a few months so they can get a taste of membership.

119.  Sometimes a nonprofit has access to world-class chefs, celebrities, artists, or architects or well-known lawmakers. Can you make sure donors are invited to or are able to participate in meet-and-greets with these folks?

120.  Offer discounts on program-related products, services, or programs or events.

121.  Offer discounts at your gift shop, merchandise, or affiliated coffee shop.

122.  Is your charity hyper-local or super cozy with a particular industry? Can you give donors a discount or membership card that gives them a perk or discount at area businesses like the hottest ice cream place in town? If your charity has to do with music appreciation, could membership to your nonprofit get a discount on purchases or a subscription to an industry magazine or music store?

123.  Quarterly donor updates or briefings about the organization and its work.

124.  Private use of a room, stage, dance floor, ballroom, meeting space.

125.  Free subscription to your newsletter (even if everyone gets it, you can list it).

126.  Access to exclusive digital content. Are there online courses, Youtube videos, music lists, playlists, podcast episodes you have been on, guest appearances on radio shows you recorded, news clippings, etc. that you can make available?

127.  Library of content – Some organizations have an impressive body of work, blog posts, books, white papers, policy analysis, talking points, swipe files, samples, templates, checklists, infographics, and much more. Is it behind a login or paywall?

128.  Unlimited daytime access/admission if you have physical space you charge people to use. This can include museums, archives, galleries, etc.

129.  Special hours or extended hours of access for donors.

130.  Using the Director’s box or ultra-special seating.

131.  An autographed casting sheet from a show, performance, or special event

132.  Subscription to your magazine or paper/print newsletter with exclusive interviews, content, features, and updates.

133.  Access to staff subject matter experts if appropriate.

134.  Meetings with the board (without being a burden. Maybe 2 meetings a year)

135.  Meetings with the executive director (small group sessions with other donors too or individualized meetings).

136.  Meeting with a non-staff specialist or a subject matter expert.

137.  Special events with speakers.

138.  Private briefings with the executive director or lobbyist or frontline worker.

139.  Personal Liaison – dedicated person just for you, year-round for questions about our work or activities at events.

140.  Invite donors to a happy hour with the staff.

Access to Community

People may get involved in nonprofits to build relationships, fellowship, or a sense of community. Don’t underestimate the power of human connection, even if it’s virtual.

141.  Some people are lonely or massive extroverts. They donate because it allows them to access a community. Many people participate in their faith community because of fellowship, comradery, deep connection, and for emotional needs. There is nothing wrong with this motivation. One of the least appreciated parts of nonprofits is that we strengthen bonds and a sense of belonging and purpose. People with strong relationships live longer. We are literally saving lives when we create community and relationships. This is why volunteering can be powerful.

142.  Mention “You will be part of a community of givers, who care, like you do, about this organization and its impact. Throughout the year you can connect with other donors and funders and the people we serve (artists, students, activists).”

143.  Joining the board (which is an opportunity to govern).

144.  Joining a board committee (which is an opportunity to help lead).

145.  Joining a giving circle (which is another opportunity to raise funds).

146.  Special invitations to observe or participate in group events, offsites, happy hours, or other social or programmatic gatherings.

147.  Access to interesting subject matter experts (monthly calls with your scientists, attorneys, or artists).

148.  Access to a virtual VIP lounge. A virtual place where people gather monthly. This could be for drinks, presentations, salons, trainings, wine tastings, food education, games, or just virtual fun. There are a growing number of free, and pretty cool, online meeting rooms that change the dynamic of how you network. Check out SpatialChat and ReSlash.


The following perks didn’t fit neatly anywhere above but they may also relate to taking a personal touch to your perks.

149.  Gratitude with personalized video from the executive or development director.

150.  Same as #142 but “Love Actually – style” where you make large poster boards (that you can reuse anytime) and thank the donor with a sweet note. Put your own personal flair on this fun tactic from a hugely popular movie.

151.  Something fancy…wine tasting + gossip virtual or in-person.

152.  Ask board and staff members from all over the region or country or the world to send notes or videos that can be easily strung together for a personalized thank you to donors.

153.  For major donors a “design your own experience” where the donor works with the staff to cultivate the access or perks they like.

154.  Don’t forget, if you are a 501(c)(3) to tell donors about the tax benefits of giving to your organization.

155.  Allow voting rights at our annual meeting.

156.  Allow voting for the board (if you have this membership model).

157.  Allow voting rights for winners of competitions you host.

Consider surprise benefits you don’t list. As much as possible, try to thank donors very quickly after the gift… as in within 48 hours.

This practice of creating donor benefits is not controversial, but it doesn’t mean it’s the only or the best method. Some organizations decide to not offer perks for monthly donors, major donors, or corporate sponsors.

For some, offering perks for some, and not others, raises questions of equity – people with money get more stuff. But you can structure your perks so that everyone gets the same perks, but donors get them sooner or delivered personally. You get the idea. You can even use the space on your website and other materials where you would normally describe your donor benefits to educate and persuade donors why you have chosen another approach.

“Thank you for considering a donation to help us do this incredible work. We know you care and that you want impact. So do we. That’s why we’re a perfect match. Many nonprofits offer benefits to donors. We don’t. This isn’t an oversight. It is our strategy. We have decided that this doesn’t align with our values. We want our energy to be focused on impact instead of creating elaborate transactional perks. All the perks of your gift go to the people we serve! We want you here because you care. You want us here because we care. We’re glad you agree. Please consider an even more generous gift because of our principled stance. We are kind, inclusive, and transparent with all our stakeholders. That’s how it should be.”

For other folks, simply creating perks creates tiers and they don’t like that at all. Another argument against donor benefits is that the time and energy creating, reviewing, tweaking, and fulfilling them is time not spent on other things.

Regardless of the critique, many believe they work. Is it a “necessary evil” of fundraising? No. Is it a tool with tradeoffs? Yes. I am a huge believer that the best plan is one that doesn’t sell your soul, that doesn’t create lots of work, that does create joy, that is more about the gesture than things, that makes you stronger for doing it, that isn’t classist, that is fun, and builds your organization.

To build your organization’s bank account and volunteer base, you need a flourishing community of supporters. Social media platforms come and go, but emails belong to you! How can you grow your email list to activate and build your organization’s power? Download 54 Ways to Skyrocket Your Nonprofit Email List!