GUEST POST: A Great Idea… Connecting With Donors Through Photo Books

This is a first!

I’ve never had anyone write a guest post for my blog. But when I saw what Daphne Powell was doing to grow relationships with her donors, I reached out to her to see if she might consider telling you her story. So, here goes…. Introducing Daphne Powell and her magical use of photo books for donor stewardship. Hoooooorayyyyy Daphne!

Connecting with donors through photo books.

By Daphne Powell

In 2018, the Advancement Office of Birmingham-Southern College (BSC) implemented the use of photo books to steward donors and enhance donor affinity and loyalty.

The first photo book recognized the generosity of a member of the BSC Board of Trustees, Jim Pierce, and his wife, Tammy, in providing for the renovation of a residence hall. The event included their family and friends and a ribbon-cutting ceremony to dedicate the refurbished Pierce Hall. photo book for donor stewardshipThe photo book was sent with a thank-you note from the college president, and a special request by the donors was received for several additional copies to share with their family members who attended the celebration.

Another use of this medium during the year was for an impact report on an endowed travel fund at the college. The book included special notes from the award recipients and myriad photographs that reflected the immersion in a different culture and the service work that was completed during a study away in Belize. For the donors of this endowment, seeing the pictures provided a first-hand look at what the students were able to experience – students who would not have been able to participate were it not for the funds provided by the award.

photo book for donor recognition

So far, photo books have been used for three facility/program dedications, two campus visits by donors, an Honors Day speaker, three honorary degree recipients, and one special impact report. The photo books are not expensive, and they are easy and fun to create. Just Google the term ‘photo book’ and you’ll find them available for $10 – $20 each.

The return on investment is already being realized through additional gifts, further engagement, and notes and words of gratitude.

In addition, single photos from events are being shared with attendees who were caught in pictures along with a handwritten note about the event. When students are involved, they, too, receive a note card and picture to start building relationships with future alumni as early as possible, as well as instill in them the importance of giving back.

College leadership sees the inherent value in providing these special touches. It reminds the recipient of either a milestone or celebration and elevates their affinity for and loyalty to the organization. Most importantly, it sparks joy in the recipient, which is central to the emotional connection that inspires future and increased giving.


About Daphne Powell:  Daphne is director of donor relations at BSC. Previously, she spent 19 years in the development office at The University of Alabama at Birmingham overseeing a comprehensive program for gift acknowledgement, recognition, and reporting. A charter member of the Association of Donor Relations Professionals, she has spoken at local, regional, and national events and served as a consultant to small nonprofits and higher education advancement teams. For questions or more information, email
About BSC:  BSC is a selective residential liberal arts college enrolling approximately 1,300 undergraduate students. BSC is included in Pope’s Colleges that Change Lives and is a sheltering institution for Phi Beta Kappa. The college’s curriculum is based on close faculty-student interaction in teaching, advising, and research. For more on the college’s faculty, students, educational mission, and national reputation visit
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4 years ago

We’ve been doing the same thing, and our donors LOVE them. For million + donors, it’s almost like a photo-biography, and takes several months for our comm staffers to write them and choose pictures. For smaller donors, I usually do them via photo sites that will walk you through the process. I’ve only had one semi-negative experience. I’m not really “good” with manipulating photographs, and for this one book, I had photos of the deceased husband at a dedication ceremony for another gift a few years before, pics of the widow’s (the donor) children and grandchildren, and one very large photo that spanned the two center pages of the book that showed her receiving a plaque for a dedication of another area named for her husband. But alas. STAPLES!!!! I didn’t think about the center of the book having staples in it!!!! When the book came in, the center staple went right through the donor’s nose!!! I almost cancelled my meeting with her to get the book re-done, but it was too late by the time the mistake was discovered. I gamely went to the meeting, and she was so gracious! She teared up as she went through the first half of the donor “journey” featuring her husband’s and family’s photos at various engagements at our school. Just exactly as I pictured it. I started apologizing as she slowly turned to the dreaded page, and when she got there, she started laughing and laughing! True, contagious amusement! Those sad tears turned to jolly tears! I told her I would re-do the book, but she told me that there was NO WAY could I take her picture book. She is the kind of person that finds the greatest beauty and meaning in the less-than-perfect. I adore this donor!!!! And she still teases me about her staple. Watch out for the staples! 😉

Cheryl Smoot
Cheryl Smoot
4 years ago

Great idea using present day technology to create an “old-fashioned” item (a book!) I have created “scrapbooks” for donors throughout my career documenting the impact they made possible through their giving. It’s a whole lot easier these days! I wanted to share an idea we’re trying to say thank you to a great donor who has given us a cumulative gift total of $500,000+. She has done this through regular $2500 direct mail gifts (almost monthly). She also has told us in no uncertain terms that if we ever call her, she will stop giving! We have no idea why she supports us so generously. So, after writing numerous thank you letters, trying to be new and creative each time in what we say, we are sending her a handwritten note containing a link to a video or our CEO saying thank you to her specifically and showing her how her gifts make a difference. We are also enclosing a flash drive with the video on it in the mailing we send, but we know these days, people may be suspect of inserting an unsolicited drive in their computer; hence, the link in the note. I’ll let you know how it goes! We love our new planned giving system BTW! It’s already reaping great notifications and prospects and we love working with Cheryl and Alex! Thanks!

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