Anyone who has worked in fundraising and development for more than a minute has heard the term stewardship. What we have learned during speaking engagements, webinars, and while working with clients is that the way to translate the idea of stewardship into the reality of a nonprofit environment is not always clear. But, because so few organizations focus on it, it’s actually pretty easy to make your nonprofit stand out through stewardship.
Stewardship is a year-round strategy to keep donors educated, engaged and excited.
That means, where ever you are today in the calendar is a good place to start. There are no excuses (A follow up article will be published in a few weeks and will include examples and help on overcoming excuses).
Get everyone involved
It may be obvious to get development staff and board members involved, but think beyond the norm. Consider how you can involve non-leadership volunteers in engaging and thanking other volunteers for their donations of time (and hopefully money). Support staff and volunteers have personal stories they would often be happy to share. And the bonus gift is that it helps engage the storytellers as much as the recipients.
Create a stewardship calendar
Write down your plan for each week and month, and then consider it a manual for you, your staff, your volunteers and your future staff and volunteers. It should be changed and updated yearly to stay fresh. Each year you can ask, what new ideas do staff members have? What about volunteer leaders? What have they seen and liked from other organizations they support? If they don’t have a lot of ideas the first year, they will the second time around. This is not a one and done strategy so plan on ways to improve over time.
You do get bonus points for creativity
Hand-written thank you notes are incredibly impactful. Phone calls from a board member – just to say you are glad they are long-time supporters of the organization – are memorable. But continue to think outside the box.
We have worked with organizations that:
- send birthday cookies to major donors
- email (tweet, post) emotional videos showing the organization’s beneficiaries
- send donor anniversary cards
- create new donor kits
- set up lunches with donors and beneficiary(s)
- create site visits
- encourage donors to sign on to virtual events
There is no one way to make your nonprofit stand out through stewardship, there are thousands. Encourage your board and committees to brainstorm ideas. Ask your donors what encouraged them to continue to give to other organizations. Consider why you have remained loyal to the nonprofit. All of these feelings and ideas are relevant and can help you create your strategy.
It does take work, but remember, it takes 4.5 times the effort and dollars to acquire a new donor as it does to retain one. So it is well worth the effort.
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