Donor stewardship is an intentional, focused process that begins as soon as a donor makes their initial gift, and continues throughout their relationship with your organization. It conveys your appreciation, creates a sense of working together for a cause you both care about, and generates loyalty. Donor stewardship is about much more than seeking financial support. It’s about developing a long-term partnership.
Lay the Donor Stewardship Foundation
Creating and implementing an organized system of donor stewardship helps nonprofits operate more efficiently and ensures donors receive a consistent experience. Consistency is one of the most crucial aspects of donor stewardship, since it produces trust and confidence in your organization. Make sure you have a strategy in place before you begin and a clear plan for how it will be implemented.
Determine which team members will carry out your program.
To ensure each component of your donor stewardship process is carried out the way you envision it, assign specific team members to oversee each component. Clearly define expectations and check to see that each person has the bandwidth to accommodate the new tasks. Schedule regular check-ins to track your progress and keep everyone on the same page.
Take advantage of technology.
An effective donor stewardship program requires resources. You can save your team a significant amount of time by using a robust fundraising software to automate much of the work. When you’re considering fundraising software, look for features that include the ability to send and track email, mail merge and direct mail automation, duplicate prevention, campaign management, task management and reminders, and a visual dashboard for ease of use.
Express True Gratitude to Your Donors
Donors don’t give for the thanks, but gratitude plays an important role in the relationship between an organization and a donor. Donors have many choices for partnering with an organization to impact a cause they care about, and gratitude can affect their decision.
Focus on gratitude throughout the process.
Expressing gratitude starts with the initial gift acknowledgement and receipt. It continues with the follow-up thank you letter, email, or phone call. And it doesn’t stop there. As you continue to send communications, don’t forget to share how appreciative you are of your donors.
Engage with all donors at every level of giving.
While the form your gratitude takes will vary depending on the level of gift, don’t forget to express gratitude for every donor and every gift, no matter how small. When you’re creating your stewardship program, plan out what forms of gratitude you’ll use at each gift level. Ideas include personalized notes, invitations to special “behind-the-scenes” access at events, invitations to an annual dinner, inclusion in a donor appreciation wall, and invitations to tour a project the donor has helped to fund.
Share What Donors’ Gifts are Accomplishing
Donors want to know how you’re using their gifts. When you make it clear where their donations are going and what they’re achieving, you instill confidence in your organization and generate a desire to continue partnering with your organization.
Numbers and statistics are useful, but they engage the logical side of the brain. Sharing stories of the people or animals your donors are helping stimulates an emotional response and creates a powerful connection.
Always reinforce your mission.
Your donors were initially attracted to your organization because they care about your mission. They want to work with you to make a difference. Use your communications and personal interactions as a way to reinforce your mission, so your donors will be reminded of why they chose to partner with your organization.
Think Quality Not Quantity for Donor Communications
Customized communications that are relevant and personalized create more engagement than generic messages. While frequency is essential, prioritize quality in your communications.
Personalize each communication.
A good fundraising software will allow you to sort your donors by interest or what programs and project they’ve donated to. When you send direct mail or email blasts, you can customize your messaging to match each donor’s interests. Donors will be more receptive to communications that connect with what they care about.
Keep your focus on stewardship, not solicitation.
While fundraising is essential, keeping your focus on stewardship rather than solicitation will result in more commitment in the long run. Present communications through the lens of partnership, from the perspective of your donors.
Listen to Your Donors to Improve Your Stewardship
Your donors are the best source of information about what they value. Regularly asking for feedback will tell you what’s working and what you should improve. There are many ways you can solicit input from your donors. Online surveys, social media posts, and phone calls are all effective methods to learn how to make your stewardship program more effective.
A well-implemented donor stewardship program is a powerful tool for building donor relationships that stand the test of time. These best practices will help you get a strong start.
Download “How to Create a Donor Stewardship Program to Boost Retention” to learn more about how to use stewardship to grow donor relationships.