Stewardship Program to Work for Your Nonprofit

The Facts:

Nationally,  70% of first-time donors never make a second gift and according the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the average donor retention rate was 43.6 percent in 2020. That is, if 100 donors gave to a Nonprofit in 2019, only 44 donors would also make a gift in 2020.

Meanwhile, 88% of funds raised came from only 12% of an Nonprofit’s donor base. A whopping 87% of those funds were made by recurring donors.

Too often Nonprofit fundraising is thought of as THE ASK – What we need to think about is Stewardship.

Stewardship is the key to donor retention and keeping your recurring donors engaged.

Stewardship – Activities that aid us in meeting (and possibly exceeding) the core responsibilities of acknowledging and recognizing a donor. These activities might occur after a gift, but are an investment in the next gift with the goal of further engaging the donor to motivate continued giving and increase her / his / their commitment.

A Case for Stewardship – The best predictor of a future gift is a giving experience that meets or exceeds the donor’s expectations.

The bad news is a majority of Nonprofits do not meet donors’ expectations.

The good news is the bar is not that high, and the tools of alacrity, personalization, engagement, responsiveness and authenticity are likely all you need to exceed a donor’s expectations.

Systems trump intentions every day – so take the time to develop, implement, and measure the effectiveness of a stewardship program. Here’s a sample Stewardship Program – feel free to put it to work in your organization.

You’ll notice everything is triggered by donation amounts – so, you’ll want to adjust these amounts to reflect giving in your Nonprofit – that is, $250+ might be a major gift, or perhaps $25,000 is a major gift.

Also, the sample program involves snail mail and phone calls – old school, but personal! But, that doesn’t mean you can’t put automation to work in stewardship — particularly a new donor program, it’s easy to use Nonprofit software to set up a series of “Welcome Donor” emails at various intervals.

Gift < $999

Acknowledgement:

  1. IRS thank you letter hand signed by Development staffer with personal note within two business days of gift receipt
  2. If donor was assigned to a solicitor, the solicitor is informed of the gift within two business days and prompted to thank the donor by phone or personal note within two weeks (Development staff to email friendly reminder to solicitor prior to two weeks after gift receipt)

Recognition:

  1. Inclusion of name as donor in annual report

Gift > $5,000

Acknowledgement:

  1. IRS thank you letter hand signed by Development staffer with personal note within two business days of gift receipt
  2. Executive Director sends handwritten thank you note within one week of gift receipt
  3. If donor was assigned to a solicitor, the solicitor is informed of the gift within two business days and prompted to thank the donor by phone or personal note within two weeks (Development staffer to email friendly reminder to solicitor prior to two weeks after gift receipt)
  4. Thank you letter hand signed by the Board Chair within one month
  5. If there was no solicitor assigned to the donor, a Development Committee member thanks the donor by phone and invites the donor to breakfast or lunch  

Recognition:

  1. Inclusion of name as donor in annual report

Special Gifts

Board Gifts

Acknowledgement:

  1. IRS thank you letter hand signed by Development staffer with personal note within two business days of gift receipt
  2. Executive Director thanks the donor by phone within one week of gift receipt
  3. Thank you letter hand signed by one of the Board Co-Chairs within one month

Recognition:

  1.   Inclusion of name as donor in annual report

First Time Donor

Acknowledgement:

  1.   IRS thank you letter hand signed by Development staffer with personal note within two business days of gift receipt
  2.   Executive Director thanks the donor by phone within one week of gift receipt
  3.   “Welcome Donor” thank you letter hand signed by a Development Committee member

Recognition:

  1.   Inclusion of name as donor in annual report

Gifts Made in Honor

Acknowledgement:

  1. IRS thank you letter hand signed by Development staffer with personal note within two business days of gift receipt
  2. Executive Director sends handwritten thank you note or thanks the donor by phone within one week of gift receipt
  3. Executive Director sends handwritten note to honoree (if information is provided)

Gift Made in Memory

Acknowledgement:

  1. IRS thank you letter hand signed by Development staffer with personal note within two business days of gift receipt
  2. Executive Director sends handwritten thank you note or thanks the donor by phone within one week of gift receipt
  3. Executive Director sends handwritten note to honoree’s family (if information is provided)

Tenants of Good Stewardhip

o   First thank you is sent within two business days of gift receipt

o   Personalize the thank you letter with the donor’s name

o   Let donor know their name will appear in annual report and to contact your Nonprofit if they wish to remain anonymous

o   Use a blue pen for signature and notes

o   Use a first-class stamp rather than metered postage for all thank you letters and notes

Author

Mike Crum

Subject Matter Expert

Mike is a recognized expert, thought leader, advisor and speaker in the Nonprofit world. Over the past four decades, Mike served as an Executive Director, COO, see more

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