*This article is not written by RFC.

Gifts are as much a part of the holiday season as family gatherings, sweet treats, and parties.

But should you give your valued donors a gift?

It depends on the donor and the gift, and you need to be careful. Many donors can be offended if they think you spent money on them instead of putting that money into your program. So, don’t buy a bookmark with your logo on it just so you can check “gifts for donors” off your to-do list! Think carefully about what will be most meaningful to them.

Here are some gifts that usually work:

  • framed photo of them volunteering makes a wonderful gift. A drawing by a child receiving services from your organization can be framed, put on a mug, or turned into many other charming gifts. Just make sure the child’s parent approves of their child’s artwork being used for marketing purposes.
  • A carefully-chosen, branded promotional item such as a journal can make a nice holiday gift. Beware of water bottles, tote bags, and similar items that could become clutter, as many of us already have too many.
  • small, packaged sweet treat can also be a welcomed gift. Be sure the ingredients are clearly labeled in case someone has food allergies. You might be able to find a local bakery who will work with you to create something special.


Before you spend money on gifts for your donors, put yourself in their shoes. Do they expect a gift? What will be their reaction when they receive it? Again, think through this carefully so it doesn’t backfire.

Sometimes organizations get donations of big-ticket items like a week-long stay in a vacation property or a nice bottle of wine. It might be tempting to give these items as gifts to major donors. Don’t. You could run afoul of IRS rules on giving gifts to donors. And you risk turning off the recipient, as well as the person who gave you the high-value item.

Consult your tax professional about any gift you plan to give a donor that costs more than a mug with your logo on it.

More importantly, think about a gift from the heart you can give donors, volunteers, and supporters. Gifts do not have to cost money to be meaningful.

A video of you or your Executive Director talking about how a donor’s gift was used to alleviate suffering will move your donor much more than a re-gifted bottle of Champagne.


The Bottom Line

Thanking donors during the holiday season should be as natural as hanging a wreath on your door. Think about creative ways to say thank you and tailor your gestures of appreciation to each donor.

The more you thank donors and volunteers, the closer they will feel to your organization’s work. They will stay involved because doing so makes them feel amazing.

With more supporters, you’ll raise more money. And with more money, you can change more lives. That’s what it’s all about.