If donor relations is the name of the game, thoughtful donor stewardship is how your nonprofit wins the game.
Successful stewardship involves building deeper relationships with donors by having a plan to interact with them in a way that cements their lasting support.
Securing funding is one important outcome of effective donor stewardship. However, you shouldn’t only reach out to donors when your nonprofit needs money. Gaining ongoing interest in your cause and the people you serve is, in many ways, just as important as the contribution itself. Working with donors toward a common goal and informing them not just about what you do, but why you do it and how they help will ensure your long-term success.
By nurturing these relationships, nonprofits will increase the growth of their donor pool and raise awareness of their missions. Here are five ways nonprofits can create lasting relationships through thoughtful donor stewardship.
#1: CULTIVATE A CULTURE OF GRATITUDE
When someone contributes to your organization, it’s clear they’re interested in your cause. Therefore, it’s essential to meet that interest with enthusiasm and graciousness.
Saying “thank you” to donors is a given. At least, it should be. Whether it’s through a personal phone call, email, or a hand delivered thank you note, let people know that they are central to what you’re doing – regardless of if they gave $5 or $5,000. People want to feel like they’re part of something bigger, so show they matter. Lack of recognition after a donation is one of the top reasons donors choose to leave an organization or stop contributing.
Even if you can only set aside one day a month to reach out to donors, make that day count. It is always cheaper to retain current donors than to find someone new, which is why having a proactive approach to donor stewardship is so important.
A culture of gratitude starts within an organization. If you show your employees the same appreciation you show your donors, they will naturally express that gratitude to the people that support and donate to the organization.
#2 TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TECHNOLOGY
If you’re responsible for a large donor management portfolio, it’s infeasible to manually reach out to each person. Technology enables you to personalize your donor outreach efforts and steward donors in a more meaningful, connected way. For example, you can send personalized reports or automated emails based on giving patterns.
From customer relationship management (CRM) systems to case management systems, tech-savvy tools and software make stewarding donors accessible to nonprofits of every size. Meanwhile, platforms like social media have made it easier to connect with donors in a unique way.
Technology is also key to showing your donors the impact of their contribution. Software provides in-depth data that shows your donors the outcomes of your activities, not just the output. If you want to go above and beyond, don’t be afraid to get specific. It’s much more tangible to say, “Your contribution to our program has helped raise the reading comprehension of girls ages 8-12 at this school by 75 percent this year,” versus, “Every dollar you donate has helped our program.” Using technology to inform and steward donors in this way will set your organization apart.
#3: GET PERSONAL
Our experience with brands and organizations is becoming increasingly personalized. Netflix makes recommendations based on our previous watch history and sites like Amazon know what we want to buy before we know. People have come to expect this level of personalization in all areas of life, and your donors are no different. Stewarding with personalization adds a layer of authenticity and empathy to your strategy.
The first step is understanding why someone made a contribution. Did they see your online ad campaign centered around STEM education? Did they attend your community outreach event to raise money for a new playground? Every donor has a reason why they donate to a certain cause. Understand what motivated them to contribute to yours.
If you know why a donor gave, it’s much easier to personalize their communication. It could be as simple as reaching out with a short email saying, “Thank you for helping us the last time we hosted a food drive at the community center, Sue! We’d love to invite you to participate again.”
Personalized invitations focus on what your donors are passionate about and inevitably lead to high donor satisfaction and larger contributions.
#4 STEWARD DONORS WITH COMPASSION
The profile of the modern donor is more varied than ever, and it’s crucial to speak to the everyday citizen. For example, studies show that women are more likely to give at virtually all income levels and a growing number of young people are also supporting their favorite charitable causes.
When stewarding current or prospective donors, be mindful of language that may alienate them. If you aren’t speaking in a way that includes all genders, races, and financial situations, you’re not going to be heard. Find out who your supporters are and speak to them. People are more likely to give to a cause (and continue giving to that cause) that emotionally resonates with them and aligns with their values.
#5 REMEMBER: DONOR STEWARDSHIP CAN BE FUN
People work tirelessly to serve and raise awareness of their organizations’ missions. But, don’t get caught up in the minutiae of stewarding donors or go through the motions without emotional investment. The nonprofits that have fun engaging with their donors are the ones that stick out in a sea of competitors.
If you have an innovative, thoughtful, and compassionate donor stewardship plan, supporters will come, and they will stay.