As the newest Armstrong McGuire Senior Advisor I have been thinking about the most important message to carry with me as I step away from 26 years of soliciting donations to now advising nonprofits. My steadfast passion that ranks highest is the message of Stewardship.
Stewardship is defined as “the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving”. As a nonprofit or educational institution, stewardship is a vital component of a development and organizational strategic plan. Without caring for and preserving donors, a gift will not renew, impact will not be shown and relationships will not grow. Stewardship is an ongoing activity that requires careful planning and implementation thus its own plan to dovetail into an organization’s development pan. As an organization builds a stewardship plan, involvement is needed not from just the development department but program as well. In order to show the impact and measurable results promised to a donor, the program side of the house needs to help build those measurements and track them year round.
Stewardship is a big part of the fundraising cycle of identification, research, cultivation, solicitation, stewardship and renewal. Many nonprofits treat stewardship through recognition though it isn’t the same. Stewardship is continuing to cultivate a donor after a gift has been given. Recognition is placing a logo or a name on a building, wall, plaque and honor roll of donors. Below are some ideas to strengthen stewardship at any organization as part of the age old philosophy to thank a donor seven times or more:
- Send a formal acknowledgement letter from President or Executive Director (legally a donor must receive a thank you letter for a gift of $250 and above);
- Development officer sends a personal thank you note;
- Board chair sends a personal thank you note;
- Add donor to eblast/newsletter recipients;
- Board member makes a personal thank you call;
- Long time donor makes a personal thank you call to a new donor;
- Student/child/adult who is benefitting from the donation sends thank you letter/artwork/photo;
- Donor receives invitation to event, society dinner, gala, graduation, home reception;
- Donor is asked to volunteer/join a committee;
- Donor is asked for advice in his/her field of expertise;
- Donor is asked to join volunteer/staff member in making a solicitation to a prospective donor;
- Meet with donor as part of focus group/strategic planning efforts; and
- Ask the donor for another donation!
Taking the time to plan and implement a stewardship plan will assure that donors are engaged, relationships are maintained and giving is ongoing. Hence, stewardship success is achieved!