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7 Stewardship Tips for Nonprofits to Attract & Retain Donors

Two key words come up frequently in nonprofit fundraising: stewardship and cultivation. Cultivation refers to our process of intentionally building meaningful relationships with supporters. Stewardship is about recognizing donors for their support - an essential aspect of cultivation. As nonprofit organizations, stewarding our donors is vital to growing and maintaining a thriving donor base and building long-lasting relationships. In this article, we will look at seven practical strategies you can use to improve donor relations and maximize the impact of your fundraising efforts.

Prefer to watch instead of read? Check out our YouTube video on Donor Stewardship!

What is donor stewardship, and why is it important for charities?

Donor stewardship is the practice of recognizing, acknowledging, and responding to donors’ gifts with gratitude. By properly thanking donors for their contributions, charities can build relationships with them and motivate them to make future donations.

Stewardship is critical to demonstrating a charity's commitment to its donors and building trust. From personalized thank-you cards to annual reports, charities should strive to communicate with their donors in meaningful ways that demonstrate how their gifts are used and their impact.

Finally, donor stewardship is essential for long-term success because it strengthens an organization’s funds. Donors who feel appreciated are more likely to continue supporting a charity over time, which can provide crucial stability for the future. It also reduces attrition or churn rates by making donors feel valued and appreciated, thus encouraging them to come back and give more.

Here are some examples of different types of donor stewardship activities:

  • Personalized thank you calls, videos, voice notes, cards, and gifts that show gratitude for donor contributions

  • Regular communications, including newsletters, text messages, emails, and updates on how donations are used and their results.

  • Sharing stories, videos, infographics, and images that show the impact of their donations and how they’re making a difference.

  • Acknowledging donors on social media, print publications, or other public forums to recognize their generosity.

  • Invitations to special events or recognition ceremonies that make donors feel appreciated.

By investing in donor stewardship activities, charities can create an environment of trust and loyalty that will help ensure their long-term success. Attracting and retaining donors can be challenging but essential to the long-term sustainability of any nonprofit organization.

Here are 7 Stewardship Tips that provide solutions for ensuring your donor base is happy and flourishing.

1. Have a Proactive Stewardship Plan

Having a written stewardship plan is vital to maintaining successful donor relationships. Before you even begin asking for donations, consider mapping the entire donor journey and plan how you will steward donors who have supported your cause. Effective stewardship plans are key to retaining donors, from introductory emails and thank-yous to personal follow-ups and recognition of additional gifts.

By having a plan, charities can ensure they keep in touch with their donors after they've given money by staying in regular contact throughout the donation process and beyond.

2. Let Your Donors Know How Their Gifts are Used

Keeping your donors informed of how their donations make a difference is integral to a successful stewardship plan. Make sure to report back on the impact of their gifts in real-time messages via email and social media, as well as periodic updates throughout the year. For example, you can share success stories that were possible because of donor contributions or let supporters know when they've helped fund a project in full. Reporting and stories will give your supporters a better understanding of the value of their financial support and be more likely to stay engaged in your organization's mission.

3. Focus on Mission Impact, Not Money

While it's essential for nonprofits to be upfront about the organizational need for donations, it's important to focus on how those donations make an impact rather than the money itself. Tell stories about gifts directly supporting your mission and the positive outcomes donors help accomplish. When focusing on the mission rather than fundraising appeals, you can engage donors in a much more meaningful way. Donors can see the results when hearing about specific projects or successes enabled by their gift.

4. Employ Unique and Targeted Communication Strategies

Using segmentation strategies to personalize your communication is crucial to donor stewardship. Try breaking down audiences by donation amount or frequency and designing messages tailored for each group. It's also essential to take a multi-channel approach, such as using emails in conjunction with physical mailers and social media posts, to get your message out. Recognizing donors for their commitment is essential, but thanking them in unique ways will encourage loyalty and increase the chances that they’ll stay engaged with you throughout their journey as donors.

5. Get Real and Genuine

Organizations should avoid sending generic, impersonal thank-you letters or emails. Instead, they should strive to make each donor feel appreciated by using their name in the communication and personalizing the message according to their donation. Additionally, charities need to ensure that all communications are timely and consistent so donors don't feel like they're being forgotten or ignored.

Finally, strive to maintain clear and open lines of communication with donors to ensure trust and transparency. Sincere communication will help foster long-term loyalty among donors.

6. Measure Your Stewardship Impact

Charities can measure the impact of their donor stewardship activities in several ways. One way is to track the percentage of donors who renew their contributions each year and any increase (or decrease) in total donations over time. Charities can also survey donors periodically to gauge satisfaction with the stewardship process or analyze the data from their donor database to determine the most effective outreach types. Finally, charities should monitor changes in public perception of the organization to determine if donor stewardship activities have positively affected their reputation.

7. Face Any Challenges You Have

One challenge nonprofits often face regarding donor stewardship is a need for more time or resources. It can be difficult for a charity to carve out the necessary time and resources for meaningful donor stewardship activities such as hosting events, sending personalized thank yous, or conducting surveys. Charities can overcome these challenges by leveraging technology such as donor management software and email marketing automation tools. These can help streamline the donation process, increase efficiency, and make it easier for charities to keep donors informed about their donations and engage with them on a more personal level.

Donor stewardship is an essential part of any charity's success. It has the potential to benefit large and small charities alike significantly. It can help with fundraising efforts and create a sense of connection between the charity and its donors, leading to long-term loyalty and trust. By staying in regular contact with donors, sending personalized thank yous, inviting them to participate in volunteer activities and events, leveraging technology, and building relationships with individual donors, charities can ensure that their commitments are making a positive impact. With the right approach to donor stewardship, large and small charities can maximize their fundraising efforts and foster meaningful connections with their donors.


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