Your organization is doing well with donations. You’ve found donors who care deeply about your organization and have donated generously. But does that mean you’re done? Not even close.
Maintaining support from donors is just as important as gaining their donation in the first place. To keep this support, focus your organization on donor stewardship.
Donor stewardship is the essential part of fundraising which focuses on building long-term relationships with your donors.
Over the years donor stewardship has become an integral part of nonprofit operations, healthcare facilities, and many other organizations. However many of these stewardship plans need some revamping.
Your organization has worked hard all year long, so to keep this rolling over into the next year, or even just next month. Try these 7 strategies to modernize your stewardship plan:
- Make personal phone calls to say thanks.
- Create a thank you video for social media.
- Host a stewardship event.
- Revise letter templates.
- Publicly recognize major donors’ names.
- Celebrate birthdays and holidays.
- Send a handwritten letter.
Stewardship plans are especially helpful to establish planned giving, which comes from recurring donors who set up donations for the future. When donors feel appreciated, they are more likely to set up this sustainable donation source.
Use these 7 practices to modernize your stewardship plan for donors and keep them coming back!
1. Make personal phone calls to say thanks.
Everyone loves personal attention. Making something more personal is a great way to impress and ultimately retain your donors.
Make sure your thank you message counts with a personalized phone call!
Keep track of the contact information you have for donors. Encourage them to provide their phone number when they donate in order to make these calls.
For your personalized phone call you may decide to:
- Ask your CEO to make the call. Any high ranking person in the organization will come across as more authoritative and unique.
- Address the donor by their name as a personal touch. This shows that the message is not scripted and that the donor stands out.
- Tell the donor when your annual report will be available. This report will keep them updated with all the happenings in the organization so they can see long-term impacts of their donation.
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A little phone call can go a long way. When you make the call, you are essentially telling the donor that they are worth your time.
2. Thank you video
For a more generalized thank you, create a video to post on social media.
This video is a message to all of your donors, but you can still add your own personal touch to it.
For a more personal message try:
- Video taping your staff members saying thank you.
- Shouting out to a couple donors in the video.
- Showing progress on the project which the money went to.
- Gathering thank you messages from your constituents.
Post this video, or even a series of thank you videos, to Youtube, Facebook, and on your website. Try also sending it in an email or posting it on an email newsletter!
Make sure you use this video as an opportunity to continue fundraising!
Many online giving tools will allow you to create specialized donation pages. Make sure the link is available alongside the video. DonorSearch listed the top online giving tools and the benefits of each so you can decide which to use to create your donation page.
In addition to thanking past donors, your video message will also encourage new donors to give to this branded donation page.
3. Host a stewardship event.
Stewardship events are a great way to get all your volunteers, donors, and members together for personal interactions to form relationships.
These events are designed to honor your donors and everyone who helps make your organization what it is.
Try out these ideas for your next stewardship event:
- Holiday party
- Family Dance party
Send out invitations or create a Facebook invitation page to get people excited for the event.
As an alternative, you may also choose to incorporate stewardship to your normal fundraising events. For example:
- Waive a race registration fee for past donors.
- Give donors an extra ticket for a raffle.
- Don’t charge donors for admission to a local concert.
Events encourage everyone to gather together and allow both your organization and donors to get to know one another on a more personal level.
Whether the event is for donors or a fundraiser, remember to take the time during the event to thank the supporters and recognize them for their help.
4. Revise letter templates
Letter templates are great for communicating with donors. However, if you’re not careful, these templates could actually hurt you!
Many organizations take advantage of templates to speed up the stewardship process. Templates are a great tool to quickly and easily send out emails, notes, or any other communication.
However, donors don’t want to see the same template thank you message each and every time they donate to your organization.
This is why you need to add some variation to your templates. Every once in a while, switch up the language used in your donation and thank you letters to keep the communication fresh.
While revising your letters, be sure the essential items remain. Some of the elements to keep consistent through these revisions are:
- Keep the letter on-brand. Use the same colors, logos, and type of language for consistency throughout organization.
- Personalize it. Use the donors name to address them and sign with a name as opposed to the organization’s name to keep it personal.
- Use the word you. Put the message in terms of the reader. More relatable messages come across as more personal.
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Don’t forget to also revise your end of the year letters! These letters require certain extra elements such as the tax status of the organization and whether or not the giver received anything for the donation.
5. Publicly recognize major donors’ names.
Stewardship is about recognizing your donors. Displaying the names of your donors is another great opportunity to make the most of your recognition.
Post the names of your major donors for everyone to see to recognize their part in making your organization what it is.
You have a variety of places available to recognize the different donors for your organization. You may choose to post their names:
- On social media.
- On your website.
- On a plaque.
- In a video.
Recognizing donors shows your appreciation. In addition, it inspires others to try to “make it” on the board.
Donor recognition walls, boards, plaques, etc. also create a legacy. It allows for long-term appreciation of your donors.
For more information about donor recognition, check out Double the Donation’s Donor Recognition Wall Guide.
6. Celebrate birthdays and holidays.
By collecting information on your donors, you grant yourself the ability to reach out to them on special occasions.
Collect information in your donor management software to keep track of important dates for each of your donors.
The more information you have about your donors, the easier it is for you to celebrate with them. You may choose to send a message to donors for:
- Their birthday
- A first donation anniversary
Choose your donor management software carefully to make sure it will retain all the information you need to celebrate with your donors.
Having the ability to keep track of important dates, contact information, demographic information, etc. helps you segment email lists to best appeal to donors in addition to sending personalized emails.
7. Send a handwritten letter
Revamp your donor stewardship plan by going old school. Handwritten letters are a classic way to show someone you care.
These letters are perceived as very personal because you took the time out of your day to write it. It assures the donor that you truly value their support instead of always relying on an automatic template letter.
Handwritten letters have multiple benefits for you and your donors:
- It’s unexpected. Handwritten letters are a rarity in society today, so sending one makes your organization stand out in the crowd.
- It’s affordable. Letters are a fairly inexpensive way to show that you care. All you need is paper, and envelope, and a stamp.
- It’s tangible. Unlike emails and other electronic communications, letters are tangible. So the receiver can keep it around for a while. Many hang it on a cork board for display!
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While this idea may not require modern technology, handwritten letters are a tool that is heavily appreciated in modern society.
Showing your donors you care is immensely important for continuous donations and support. Make sure your donor stewardship plan is up to par by modernizing your stewardship plan using these 7 practices.
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About the Author
Sarah Tedesco is the Executive Vice President of DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing retention rate and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.
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