Donors are, in many ways, similar to consumers. Consumers often take a chance on a new product. When the product meets or exceeds their needs, they may purchase it again and again. Businesses offer incentives to lure in consumers and reward programs to keep them loyal, and large corporations spend millions of dollars a year on marketing campaigns to build brand loyalty. Smart nonprofit organizations can learn a lesson from these businesses by implementing a parallel program for donors. In the nonprofit world, donors make gifts to organizations with similar values to that of the donor. New donors may make a smaller initial gift to an organization to “test the product”. How do we ensure these donors become repeat purchasers or repeat donors? The answer lies in Donor Stewardship.
Donor Stewardship: Most simply put, stewardship is everything your organization does to maintain a donor. It starts with thanking a donor for his/her gift. An acknowledgment letter is often the first of many personal touch points in the stewardship process. Other touch points throughout the year may include newsletters, recognition in printed materials, personalized holiday cards, special donor only events, VIP receptions at larger events, etc.
You may be thinking, why do we spend our limited time and resources on donor stewardship, wouldn’t our time be better spent finding new donors? As is true in the business world, it’s easier to maintain a donor than it is to find a new one. Your current donors are your most valuable assets. By creating a number of positive experiences through stewardship touch points, you can help ensure your donor has high quality interactions with your organization and its mission, leading to long term engagement with the organization.
Stewardship touch points are especially important in building and maintaining relationships. As one of my coworkers explained to a lay leader, “If every time you called your friend you asked for money, what kind of friendship would that be? Eventually your friend would stop answering your calls and the friendship would suffer.” Stewardship programs provide a strategic way to ensure that we don’t just call our friends to ask for money. Rather, they give our organizations opportunities to educate and inform donors between solicitations, connecting them to the mission of the organization and building lasting, meaningful relationships.