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Ten Strategies for Enhancing Donor Stewardship and Communication

Susan Fields, CFRE

One of the most powerful methods of connecting donors to your organization is though expressing heartfelt gratitude for their generosity. Your nonprofit’s relationship with a donor begins with the very first gift. If you value your supporters and wish to retain them, it is vital that your nonprofit commit to an ongoing stewardship program. The strategies listed below will go a long way in motivating donors to maintain and increase their giving. 
  1. Make a plan. Lay the foundation for a strategy that makes the donor feel valued, inspires camaraderie in working toward a common goal, and builds loyalty. This will require mapping a calendar of personalized expressions of appreciation tailored to various segments of your donor base. Consistency and frequency is important in keeping donors engaged and motivated to increase the number and amount of their gifts. 
  2. Know your donors! Personalizing your communications with donors will require that you know something about them--their interests, preferred channels of communication, level and habits of giving as well as family and community connections. Much of this information can be found in your database; however, an online or mail survey can be an excellent tool in pinpointing more nuanced and detailed information that will prove invaluable in engagement efforts. 
  3. Tell a compelling story. Partner with Story Corps to record, preserve, and share oral histories of donors—why they give, what is important to them, and how being part of your organization has enhanced their lives. Also engage donors by telling heartfelt stories of people whose lives have been impacted through your organization’s work. Provide intriguing images with designs that draw in the donor. Be passionate and avoid statistics. People give from the heart, not the brain. 
  4. Express gratitude. The “thank you” letter is one of the most important communications you will have with your donors. If you view acknowledgement letters as only an obligation or record for donor tax purposes, then you are missing the mark. This is a golden opportunity to impart to donors how their gift has assisted your nonprofit in fulfilling its mission. Make the donor the hero. Report where the money will go/or has gone and the people who have benefited. 
  5. Impress with special communications and meetings. A phone call from the CEO, Board, or Leadership Team is one of the most effective means of communicating as it allows the caller to learn more about the donor and his/her interests. Hand written letters are also sure-fire methods of imparting to supporters that their generosity is highly valued. Of course, a luncheon or dinner with the Board Chair or CEO is an excellent way to thank a major donor for a large contribution. 
  6. Methods of engagement. Newsletters and Customized Impact Reports, are excellent tools for keeping donors abreast of what’s happening in your organization. Special newsletters and correspondences can be tailored specifically to planned giving or major donor clubs. Special events such as Volunteer Appreciation nights, Major Donor Dinners, and site visiting opportunities are highly effective in making contributors feel valued and connected. 
  7. Encourage monthly giving. Offer this option on every general appeal. Give your program a creative name that fits your organization—Sustainers, Circle of Friends, Guardians, etc. An effective method of attracting monthly donors is through a targeted mailing to supporters that make small gifts at least twice a year. Monthly donors can be asked to upgrade after six months, and may be solicited for an occasional extra contribution--thanking them for their recurring gift and enclosing a reply envelope. 
  8. Love your donors and members. Greeting cards on birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries are a big hit! Calendars with pictures of volunteers and service recipients will remind donors of your organization every day of the week. Books, buttons, magnets, tee shirts, and lapel pins make excellent tokens of appreciation to Sustainers, mid-level, and major donors. Bond alumni to your school through regional groups, reunions, affiliate groups, membership certificates, and special discount programs for books, movies, dinners.  
  9. Engage NextGen Donors – Although Boomers dominate in terms of amount given, millennials are highly motivated to volunteer, participate, and get involved—with 84% of this generation making a gift to charity. Millennials tend to be impact–oriented and attracted to “Peer-to-Peer” fundraising such as walkathons, marathons, cycling events, and cocktail parties. The best way to engage with this group is through social media with consistent posting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  
  10. Acquire from those who already know you. If you are looking to attract new donors to your organization, look no further than the people that you already know. These are the individuals who already care about you. They are your volunteers, event attendees, vendors, local small businesses and foundations, banks, or corporations in your area. Board members can often provide linkage to communitarians. Also try networking at your local Chamber of Commerce. 

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