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Creating a Donor Stewardship Plan That Will Blow Donors Away

and some creative ways to thank donors

Donor stewardship is the relationship-building process that starts after a donor makes a gift to your nonprofit. Having a solid stewardship plan is imperative for many reasons, such as:

1. Keeping your donors engaged with your organization

2. Improving the donor experience

3. Boosting your donor retention rates

4. Encouraging donors to make greater contributions

Step 1: Segmenting Your Donors Levels

Segmenting your donors will help your organization decide who to focus on and how to recognize and steward donors at each level.

These levels will serve as a framework around which you’ll build your plan. Typically, I segment into:

· New Donors

· Loyal Donors

· Major Donors

· Planned Giving

For our newbies, I quickly want to review the donor pyramid. Hang in there if you are a seasoned fundraiser - this will be quick. The base of the pyramid represents where we acquire new donors. The idea is to work our donors up the pyramid to the point where they make the ultimate gift, which is legacy giving.

We nurture these relationships through effective stewardship and cultivation.

Through a process called Moves Management, we want to encourage a new donor to make a repeat gift. Once they become a loyal donor, we can encourage a major gift. Once they have become a major supporter, we can talk to them about planned giving.

You can see how each level in the pyramid requires different stewardship practices.

Some other things to keep in mind when segmenting your donors are:

  • Communications: Understanding a donor’s preference when it comes to communication. For example, some donors prefer phone calls, while others may prefer email.

  • Demographics: Demographics will help indicate how a donor may respond to your communications. For example, younger donors and senior donors prefer different recognition methods for various reasons.

Step 2: Segment Your Stewardship Levels

Donors often need multiple touchpoints to keep them committed to supporting your mission. There is a journey we take with every donor in terms of their communications that starts with their first gift.

  1. Acknowledge: Acknowledging a gift confirms that you’ve received it and demonstrates that your organization is grateful, which starts you on the path to building a bond with your supporter.

  2. Recognize: Regardless of the size of a donation, donors need to be recognized to keep them coming back.

  3. Report: Donors want to know they have made a difference. They want to see what their gift helped to accomplish.

  4. Engage: Engage your donors and treat them as active agents of your organization. Listen to what they have to say and follow up.

Step 3: Discovering & Documenting Stewardship & Recognition Opportunities

Let’s put segmenting our donors and segmenting our stewardship levels into practice. It is time to create the road map for your stewardship plan.

Begin by considering stewardship from the perspective of the donor. What should each type of donor experience at each stage of the process? Next, craft processes, policies, and procedures to ensure your ideas are implemented. How will your team carry out each step? What challenges will they face? Create a schedule that clearly outlines the specific points and timeframes of when each communication and experience will occur.

You have myriad stewardship methods to choose from when creating your stewardship plan. Start by brainstorming techniques to use at each donor level. Think about techniques around acknowledgment, recognition, reporting, and cultivation. Keep in mind that your donor stewardship plan should go far beyond thank-you letters. You need to really engage your donors and deepen your organization’s connection with them.

We all know about phone calls, letters, and emails, but here are some addition, creative ways to connect with donors.

· Stories about the impact the gift made

· Quotes from the recipients and beneficiaries of programs and projects

· Surveys that ask for feedback and explore your donors’ interests

· Reports on both the impact of donors’ gifts and the work your organization is doing

· Sending articles or materials of interest

· Text messages are the hot new thing

Step 4: Evaluating Your Donor Stewardship Plan

Donor stewardship is an ongoing process that needs attention, monitoring, assessment, and revision. Your stewardship techniques should evolve as you learn more about your donors. Keep talking to donors, assessing the effectiveness of your communications, and making changes to ensure that your plan is functioning as efficiently as it possibly can. If your donor stewardship plan isn’t improving retention rates or inspiring more significant gifts, try to figure out where you can improve and strengthen relationships.

Watch to watch instead of read, watch our YouTube video on Donor Stewardship.


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