Superb donor stewardship is about consistency

Stewarding your donors makes sense

Fundraisers often say every little bit makes a difference. This philosophy should be more than a message – it should drive your organisation’s culture. Why? So many reasons! On numbers alone, the lifetime value of a regular small donor can be immense. It costs much more to recruit a new donor than look after a current one. You never know which modest gift could be a donor’s way of ‘testing the water’ when they have much more to offer. Creating raving, loyal fans among your donors is a simple way to build wider support.

Start with a stewardship plan and stick to it

Consistency is critical. The most important thing you can do to retain and steward your donors is to have a plan that you measure and follow. Think of it as a ‘service agreement’ with your supporters. Hold yourself to account with clear, regular measurement. Funding HQ helps you build an achievable plan to care for your donors and provides plenty of templates to get you started. If you have easy metrics in place, then you’ll have a framework to follow, so no donor gets left behind. For example, you might plan to have a board member get in touch with every donor of a certain level once per quarter. You can note these interactions and see your stewardship performance with a glance.

Put your donors first in communications

Whenever you’re communicating with your donors – individually, as a group, or in general, it’s vital to get the message right. Usually, this means keeping it donor-centric rather than organisation centric. You want to show that donor support matters and how it makes an impact. Our blog on storytelling has some ideas. 

To keep your communications truly donor-centric, make sure you understand how often they’d like to hear from you, and how. The best way to do this is simply to ask. Funding HQ will help you build a system that captures this information when you bring your donors on board.

Genuine gratitude is the greatest

Saying thank you always matters. And it’s much more important than glitzy donor gifts or splashy merchandise. Your thanks should be as emphatic as any request for a donation. At the very least, you must make a prompt thanks for every gift. Then, you can get more inventive. Below, we’ve listed a few ideas for stewarding donors. We regularly add the most inspiring case studies to Funding HQ too.

Have fun and get everyone involved in thanking donors

Donors rarely like to see too much money spent on them instead of the cause. This removes pressure and gives you an opportunity to be creative. Think about money-can’t-buy opportunities that are personal rather than elaborate. Surprising donors with something small and unexpected can mean a lot. For example, scholarship students or travelling sports teams could send a postcard to donors. Arts organisations could invite donors to watch a rehearsal.

Below are a few ideas we’ve seen that capture donor’s imaginations. We’d love to hear what special things your organisation does to recognise and care for its donors.

  • Personal notes, calls or cards from your team, your trustees or your community
  • Engagement without an ask attached, such as a birthday wish, recognition of milestones or successes
  • Creative naming rights such as ‘Tania’s roses’, Sean’s team buffet’
  • Opportunity to volunteer or get closer to the cause – a behind-the-scenes visit, hold the drink bottles, help with the costumes, capture ‘crowd view’ selfies etc
  • Something small and personalised such as autographed practice notes, a signed team shirt
  • Access to discounts or special offers from within your sponsor network
  • Public acknowledgement such as a post on Facebook, your website, a programme or display at a venue

Funding HQ has many more ideas and gives you frameworks to help you succeed. Find out if it’s a fit for your organisation here