Donor Stewardship: Planting the Seeds for Retention

Tim Sarrantonio

One of the most important parts of donor retention is stewardship, or the act of engaging donors after they have contributed to your mission. The ability to make people feel closer to your mission can come in many forms, and this post will explore the ways to create a multi-channel stewardship campaign that can keep donors involved for years to come.

We’ve already talked about multi-channel fundraising here, but going that extra step to thank your donors is the key to maintaining the relationships that brought those folks to you in the first place. There are two key areas to focus on when creating your campaign.

Be Consistent
When your organization is looking to maximize its stewardship program, you’ll need to build a structure to ensure that the message that you are conveying is consistent, clear, and within the framework of your mission.

A few ways to ensure your program is top notch from the moment you launch are:

  • Create a policy on what happens when someone donates, including a short turnaround time for your engagement. I worked at an educational institution that had an explicit policy that was shared with all members of our team for what steps need to be taken when someone donates.  There were even varying levels of engagement depending on the size and program designation of the gift itself.
  • Invest the time and resources in developing materials for thanking donors, ensuring that your nonprofit’s message is updated yearly (if not more often!) to showcase how your mission is growing with the donor’s support.  Make sure to highlight the impact the donations are making. Your website can be an excellent place to do this. In fact, you could even consider creating a page dedicated to your donors , where you can give updates and feature contributions that have really helped you make an impact. This is an excellent way to make your supporters feel more appreciated!
  • Understand your donors as much as possible when sending that note or making that call. Take notes from the phone call and add them to the donor record in your database after engagement.  Or look up their donor record and add a personal note to that ‘thank you’ letter to engage them deeper than their most recent transaction.  You’ll find these notes aid tremendously in future touch points with your donors.

Be Creative
There is no better way to alienate a donor than making them feel they received a boilerplate response from your organization. With advancements in technology, your organization has a variety of ways it can create a multi-channel stewardship campaign that doesn’t tax your resources.

  • Hold an event or “thank-a-thon” to specifically thank donors. This can celebrate your donors while also giving you a chance to spotlight your mission in a direct way.
  • Use technology to reach out to donors in innovative ways. Engage your online ambassadors to spread the love for you, perhaps using social media to post your donor list.
  • Bring your stewardship program back directly to your mission. Incorporate recognition in your programs or at your facility without making it an afterthought.

The ability to integrate stewardship can be a mixture of print, email, phone, social media, and in-person engagement. By thinking strategically about how to engage your donors, you’ll be able to maximize your time while also creating longer lasting relationships.

When implementing this program, also think about ways you’ll be tracking engagement. Take notes, utilize statistical tracking capabilities in your software, and frequently check on how your campaign is being received. If you feel that something isn’t working or you’re going through the motions, then revise your plan and try something new. Do not be afraid to experiment!

Got a question, comment, criticism, or concern? We’re here to listen, we’re here to help, and we’re here to learn. Leave something below or reach out to me directly at tim@z2systems.com. I look forward to continuing the conversation!

If you want more information, check out these additional resources:

  1. Membership Programs. A membership program is a great tool to retain your donors. If you’re not sure how to create a program for your organization, checkout this helpful guide with all the information you need.
  2. Membership Management Software. Are you looking for a way to keep track of the donors participating in your membership program? Find the right management software to meet your needs with this guide.
  3. Nonprofit Donor Database. In order to retain your donors, you’ll need to have the most information on them as possible. With a donor database, you can keep track of all of your donors’ preferences.
Nonprofit Donor Databases: The Buyer's Guide

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