Most nonprofit workers recognize that donor stewardship is a crucial component of fundraising. You must express gratitude to your supporters and cultivate relationships with them to encourage them to give again. However, whether your nonprofit is attempting to raise donor retention rates or is just beginning stewardship, there are numerous strategies to improve your effectiveness. Follow these ten best practices for donor stewardship to immediately engage your contributors.
1. Always express gratitude to your donors, and do so promptly.
When your donors contribute, it is crucial that your nonprofit express gratitude promptly and effectively. A donor should not get a thank-you note six weeks after donating. And it should probably not include another request.
Send your acknowledgments immediately. In addition, another best practice for donor stewardship is to send thank-you notes using the same channel that the donor used to make their donation. This results in a more consistent experience. If the donation was made online, email the donor. Send them a letter via direct mail or call if they have written a check. You might even utilize multiple channels to express your gratitude.
Regarding the substance of your thank-you letters, convey genuine appreciation for the donor’s support of your organization’s vital job. Mention the donor’s name and the purpose or cause they donated. You can also describe the gift’s effects in clear, tangible words. For instance, if your organization is a food bank, it may be the number of meals provided.
If you request extra support in your thank-you note, do so subtly or indirectly. Before requesting additional donations, donors should feel appreciated and honored for their gifts.
2. Use donor-centric language.
The contributor-centric language emphasizes the donor and their influence rather than your company. Frequently, changing ‘we’ to ‘you’ in communications is sufficient.
This is an excellent practice for donor stewardship since donor-centric wording will make your supporters feel like heroes. It will help them comprehend the impact of their contribution.
In a thank-you letter or other form of contact, however, you should not feel compelled to exclude all instances of your voice. You can still share a personal narrative while showcasing the impact of your donor.
3. Get as personal as possible.
Creating personalized and relevant communications is one of the most effective strategies to engage donors. You can divide your donors into several categories or levels based on their donations, demographics, and communication preferences. For instance, one group may like to discover how they may assist without incurring financial costs. You can email this group with additional involvement ideas and possibilities, such as volunteering or participating in a peer-to-peer fundraising event. Other donations may necessitate personal communication, such as phone calls. You can engage this group in conversation and present them with unique options depending on their interests when you address them.
The more you personalize donor communications, the greater the donor’s sense of appreciation and connection to your organization.
4. Offer your donors opportunities to get more active.
An essential donor stewardship best practice is to go beyond simply expressing gratitude. Your nonprofit organization should strive to elicit donors’ emotional investment in its goal. To accomplish this, you must create a pleasant experience that will inspire them (and motivate them to donate) for years to come.
This is especially crucial for younger contributors who may not be able to donate much at present but wish to assist. If you provide them with options that keep them involved today, they may continue to donate when they have more extra income in the future.
Events, service opportunities, invitations to join a donating or legacy society, and other forms of engagement may be utilized. And if you’re searching for cost-effective methods to engage a range of donors, you may begin with virtual events such as a trivia night. Because there are no in-person expenses, you can invite more contributors (and a wider range of donation levels) to virtual stewardship events.
5. Don’t overlook recognizing your donors.
Recognizing the generosity of your contributors is essential donor stewardship best practice. Determine how you will recognize donors for your organization at each giving level or gift type. How, for instance, will you recognize contributors who inform you that they intend to leave a legacy in their will? Will you feature the tales of your monthly small-dollar donors? Would your significant donors receive naming rights at your stewardship event or be listed on an honor roll?
Regardless of how you thank your donors, it would help if you strived to make them feel appreciated and motivated by your company. And if they request anonymity, be sure to respect that.
6. Report the results of your contributors’ contributions.
Informing donors about the impact their donations have had on the organization is essential donor stewardship best practice. Send annual reports, monthly mailings, or even video updates on the impact of funding on your work.
A strong stewardship or impact report will describe how your organization uses donations to create a positive impact. It can also convey gratitude and demonstrate that gifts were utilized as intended.
7. Tell donor stories.
In the donor cultivation cycle, stewardship is one step that leads back to solicitation. And recounting your donors’ experiences is a powerful method to encourage past donors to give again or to provide a different type of gift.
For instance, you may share a story about one of your bequest donors with your small-dollar monthly donors. Highlight the significance of their planned contribution to your organization’s future, what motivated them to give, and how it will not financially impact them during their lifetime.
Such accounts offer social evidence for why a donor should contribute again. People are more willing to give when they perceive that others with similar characteristics are also giving. Additionally, stories activate the emotional side of your supporters’ minds, resulting in a stronger sense of connection to your cause.
8. Ask your donors for feedback.
Collecting and acting on donor feedback will increase donor retention rates. And surveys are an excellent method for receiving feedback from your donors. While you should always pay attention to what they say via email, phone, social media, etc., surveys simplify collecting and quantifying data. When requesting feedback, you should attempt to determine your donors’ wants, interests, and needs. This will assist you in developing new programming and enhancing your current stewardship strategies.
9. Solicit only when the relationship has been established.
Establish a strong relationship between your organization and your donors before requesting additional donations. Avoid requesting a second present without first expressing gratitude for the first. However, this donor stewardship recommended practice can extend beyond this. Depending on the gift and quantity you’re requesting, you may need to make significant effort to obtain the donation and engage the contributor in your organization’s mission.
In addition, remember to recruit all of your prior donors. As a fundraiser, you need repeat donors. Engage them in stewardship activities until it feels appropriate to make another request.
10. Create a stewardship strategy.
Before implementing a variety of various stewardship strategies, you may wish to create a donor stewardship plan. In a stewardship plan, you can establish your communication rules, recognition systems, and engagement methods. It can also assist you in determining which members of your team are responsible for leading particular donor stewardship actions. For instance, your communications staff may be responsible for sending stewardship emails to your low-dollar or monthly supporters. The objective of a stewardship plan should be to engage donors at all levels of giving to the greatest extent possible, given the available resources.