Creating a Donor Stewardship Plan: 3 Best Practices

Creating a Donor Stewardship Plan: 3 Best Practices

common fundraising mistake made by many nonprofits is to put so much emphasis on acquiring new donors that they forget to pay attention to the donors they already have.

Do not allow donor stewardship — the process by which an organization builds strong, healthy relationships with existing donors long after their initial donations have been received — to become an afterthought. Effective donor stewardship is all about turning first-time donors into loyal, recurring donors and is essential to keeping your donor retention rate where it should be.

Sounds simple. And it is, if you keep these best practices in mind as you sit down to develop a donor stewardship strategy:

  1. Understand and use your donor data effectively.
  2. Make it easy for your donors to leverage the impact of their gifts.
  3. Publicly thank your donors for all they do.

Let's take a closer look:

1. Understand and use your donor data. Donor data can be overwhelming and cause lots of people lots of stress if it isn't collected regularly and with an eye to how it is going to be used. But when done properly, data analytics can help you understand who your donors are, when they are most likely to give, and what kind of appeal they are most likely to respond to.

Your data should do three things:

  • Provide you with basic knowledge about your donors (e.g., name, age, location, marital status, profession, the things that excite them about your organization, other organizations they support, etc.)
  • Capture their giving/communications preferences (e.g., preferred donation amount/range, preferred giving frequency, preferred communications channels/frequency, etc.).
  • Give you an idea of their capacity to give (e.g., net worth)

(To learn more about donor analytics and the importance of using donor data properly, see our prievous post. And to learn more about what motivates giving behavior and how you can use that knowledge to increase your donor retention, check out this study from OneCause.)

Knowing who your donors are is the first step in cultivating strong, lasting donor relationships and allows you to meet them on their terms.

The next step? Contact each of your donors and try to engage them in a conversation about:

  • the impact of their previous gift
  • the importance of your cause
  • what your organization could do with more resources
  • the possibility of furthering their engagement with your organization

Your donor data, when used effectively, can greatly enhance your ability to engage your donors, improve your fundraising results, and boost your donor retention rate.

2. Make it easy for your donors to leverage the impact of their giftsYour nonprofit is sustained by the generosity of its donors. To ensure that each donation has the greatest possible impact and leads to recurring donations, you should seek out and promote corporate matches (in which a company or corporation agrees to matches the donations of its employees to your organization). Corporate matching campaigns amplify the impact of donors’ gifts with minimal effort on your part and no additional monetary contribution on the part of donors.

To simplify the matching-gift process for donors:

  • make sure any and all "Donate" buttons on your website are prominently displayed and work seamlessly.
  • provide a matching gift database search tool like 360MatchPro so that donors can search for their employer and the details of the company's matching gift program (if they have one), including minimum and maximum match amounts and the match ratio; employee eligibility criteria (full-time, part-time, and/or retired); organization eligibility criteria; and in-kind employee volunteer information (if any).
  • the database should also provide information on how to submit required matching-gift forms to the donor's employer. Because more than 80 percent of matching-gift forms are submitted online, a donor should be able to seamlessly complete this task as s/he is making a donation. His/her employer will then review the form, confirm the employee's donation with your nonprofit — and send you a check!

Encouraging matching gifts enables you to engage your donors in a way that benefits all parties involved. Your donors will love that they were able to leverage the impact of their donation to your organization, which, in turn, will deepen their commitment to and sustained engagement with your work. And companies with matching-gift programs will be grateful that their charitable contribution(s) supported a cause near and dear to a valued employee's heart.

One other thing: Be sure to follow up with donors after they've made a donation and suggest they consider having their donation matched by their employer. It's a good way to extend your relationship with them, and it’s a great way to improve your donor retention rate.

3. Publicly thank your donors for all they do. Do you know the secret to motivating donors to stay engaged? It's pretty simple and starts with "Thank you." Everyone wants to feel appreciated and valued for their efforts, and donors are no different. In fact, your donors will be exponentially more likely to give to your organization on a recurring basis if you take the time to thank them for their donations.

There are many ways to do that, including:

Online: You can display your gratitude online in two ways: in an email and on your website. Make sure your online donation process includes an automated thank-you email to donors when a donation has been completed, but don't stop there. Your organization should have an email newsletter (monthly, quarterly) that you can use to express your gratitude for your donors and tell them, in compelling fashion, what you’ve been able to accomplish with their support. In addition, your website should include a donor spotlight feature where you highlight the contributions of loyal donors.

In person: Galas and other in-person fundraising events are the perfect opportunity to really connect with your donors with a personal "thank you." Never underestimate the value of looking a donor in the eye, shaking his or her hand, and telling them their donation really made a difference. Donors will be much more likely to donate again if they hear from the horse's mouth, as it were, that good work is being done and their donations are helping to make that work possible.

In public: Public recognition of your donors on a wall or plaque is a great way to show them you value your relationship with them. When doing so, be sure to display the name of the fundraising campaign, the donor's name, the gift amount or range, and the season and year in which the donation was made (e.g., spring 2019). This type of thank you not only shows your organization's appreciation for its donors, it also will inspire others to give.

Your donors are one of your nonprofit's most valuable resources, and donor stewardship is essential to the success of your organization's fundraising. Demonstrating your gratitude is an excellent way to guarantee your organization maintains a relationship with them over the long haul.

Got any other tips or advice for nonprofits looking to develop an effective donor stewardship strategy and improve their retention rates? We’d love to hear him.

Adam Weinger is president of Double the Donation, a provider of tools that help nonprofits raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs.

THE SUSTAINABLE NONPROFIT

April 30, 2019