Good Stewardship is More than Saying "Thank You"

| by Tom McGuire

How many times have you heard it said that good development is “all about building relationships”? But what, exactly, do we mean when we talk about the “relationship” between a nonprofit and a donor?

Over the past 30 years, I’ve learned that the strongest relationships occur when both nonprofit (staff, board, volunteers) recognize – and truly believe – that a donor is much more than the person (or foundation or business) that we look to once or twice a year for continued support. In most cases, he or she is genuinely interested in your organization and wants to be seen as a partner in its success.

The best way to create an honest sense of partnership is through ongoing, sincere stewardship of your donors. Most nonprofits do a good job of thanking their donors, but how often do they go beyond the gift acknowledgement letter, the quarterly newsletter or an invitation to the annual fundraiser?  In other words, how do they make their donors feel that they are really a vital part of the organization?

Here’s a suggestion:  if you’re an executive director, development officer or program director, set aside one afternoon a month for making personal phone calls to a selected list of donors.  No emails, no letters or text messages.  It doesn’t need to be a long conversation; maybe just an update on recent or upcoming events.  Remember, you’re calling a friend in order to share information, not to solicit a gift…there will be other times for that.

Yes, it will take time and effort to follow this practice, but over time it will be one of your most effective ways of “building relationships.”  And one final benefit of a regular schedule of donor phone calls:  for those board members who “just can’t ask for money,” here’s a perfect way to engage them in a painless, but very important part of your organization’s stewardship.  Join  the conversation and tell us about your stewardship activities.

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