Nonprofit Stewardship – A Year in the Making

Donor Retention Project ImageThe Donor Retention Project – Week 12

This is the last in my series on my learnings from the Donor Retention Project. We return to the essentials of nonprofit stewardship, this time with Dan Blakemore. The importance of stewardship came to him a few years back when he joined a nonprofit that was in the process of trying to reap the rewards of a challenge gift that included a donor retention piece.

4 Key Elements

  1. Routine
    If you know you get your snail mail at 2pm every day, plan on spending 45 minutes opening up gifts, adding the information to the database and sending thank you emails. Have a few templates ready – one for new donors (Dan offered a sample in his activity guide), one for renewed gifts (he suggested including the number of years or the total amount given over time to these notes to show the impact that small gifts can have), one for planned gifts, and one for any category that is agency-specific. You don’t need to recreate the wheel every day, but you do want to keep the wheels moving each and every day.
  2. Could you use $153,000 in increased philanthropic investment?
    Make stewardship the priority for one fiscal year. Let’s examine how we can get you there. What if you retain 5% more donors than last year or whatever your average donor retention rate has been for the past 3 to 5 years. Now, let’s assume you have 560 donors. 5% may seem like a small percentage, but if you could do that every year for 5 years that would mean 28 additional donors who might still be giving to your organization. If your average gift is $100, that would mean an additional $153,000 from these retained donors alone. If your average gift is closer to $1,000 – that is an additional $153,000. Or, on the other hand, you could consider that as funds that you will be actively losing by not stewarding your current donors.
  3. Events Can Offer Donor Acquisition
    Stewarding attendees who have attended a special event as their first contact with your nonprofit does not mean importing their names into your general support lists and hoping a few survive. People go to galas for a variety of reasons – but a large number of newbies are friends with the honorees. And the majority of those friends don’t know or care about your cause. But you have one night and various means of follow up that can peak their interest and retain these prospective donors. Create special pieces based on something that happened at the event, something they purchased at the silent auction at the event, highlighting the honoree as a continuing supporter and asking them to join in making a real impact.
  4. Small things can make your organization stand out.
    I have said it before and I will say it again – thank you calls – without additional solicitations – make a difference. Most people have never received a call from a nonprofit to simply thank them for their support. One evening, some board members and a handful of cell phones are all that is required to make donors feel good about how their gift has impacted your organization.

Of course, this is just a sampling of ideas. But if you spend a year brainstorming with your development team and board about how you can retain donors through nonprofit stewardship – you will see the difference this fiscal year. And for years to come.

Purchase your copy of The Donor Retention Project by clicking here

Read the rest of my series on 90 Days to Larger Gifts and Lifetime Donors by clicking here