The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

The 5 Stages of Donor Stewardship

The 5 Stages of Donor Stewardship

You’ve successfully attracted donors to your cause. They’re passionate, eager, and willing to support you. But if you don’t steward them successfully, you’ll lose them. And then you’re simply spending all your precious fundraising time trying to get new donors to replace the ones you let slip away.

Make note of these five stages of donor stewardship to build a successful program that lets donors know how much you care about them from day one.

#1 – Gift Acceptance

Once you receive a donation, what do you do with it? How do you designate it so you can appropriately track it later? If the gift is intended for a specific program, you’ll want to make sure those intentions are honored. Put procedures in place to ensure gifts go where donors want them to go.

  • Create a structure for giving opportunities with a variety of levels and designations.
  • Review each gift to ensure it can be used the way the donor intends.
  • Develop a policy for how gifts will be handled if they can’t be applied the way donors expected.
  • Have a procedure for gift tracking so you can easily follow how each gift was used.

#2 – Acknowledgment

Follow up each gift with a sincere, personalized thank you letter or email. But that’s only the beginning of the acknowledgement process. Incorporate gratitude into the entire stewardship program for best results. Get creative with your acknowledgements to help donors feel appreciated and motivated to stay engaged with your organization.

  • Send gift receipts immediately.
  • Send a thank you letter soon after to recognize the gift. We recommend within 24 hours, but at least within one week.
  • Follow up with an email, phone call, and/or visit (depending on the level of the gift).
  • Brainstorm creative ways to convey gratitude, such as personalized thank you notes from clients, students, or others who have been helped by the gift.

#3 – Recognition

Recognition is more than just a way of communicating gratitude. When given dedicated focus, donor recognition is also a step in the stewardship process. Be sure and consider each donor’s preferences to make your recognition meaningful. Know whether your donors prefer to be anonymous or if they thrive on public accolades.

  • Host donor recognition events to cultivate relationships and encourage higher levels of giving.
  • Feature donors in your organization’s newsletter, publication, or annual report to add human interest and celebrate donors.
  • Create giving societies and honor rolls that offer tiered recognition and accompanying benefits.

#4 – Communicating Results

Donors give because they care about your issue and want to make a difference. But they also want to see the results of their gifts. Communicating your results back to donors is one of the most important stages of a donor stewardship program. Below are just a few ways you can communicate results to keep your donors engaged. How do you share your campaign results with donors? Comment on this blog to let us know.

  • Send campaign updates via email and direct mail.
  • Feature stories in your newsletter.
  • Post updates on social media and your blog.
  • Create case studies highlighting the community you serve.

#5 – Cultivation

Focus the final stage of your stewarding process on motivating donors for ongoing or increased giving. Keep the emphasis on relationship-building, not solicitation. What do your donors value? What approach do they respond to? How do they want to be contacted? Incorporate these simple cultivation tactics to encourage deeper commitment to your organization.

  • Share plans for the next stages of projects that donors have given to in the past.
  • Suggest related programs that donors may like in based on their previous interests and giving habits.
  • Ask donors to spread the word about a project or program they’re passionate about via social media.
  • Invite donors to an onsite event or tour to see the results of their gifts firsthand.

Want to launch a donor stewardship program at your nonprofit? Download the Donor Stewardship Program Checklist for 12 steps to crafting your donor stewardship program and start strengthening your donor base today.

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About This Blog

Amanda Khoury
Marketing Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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