In the nonprofit sector we are starting to speak more and more about capacity building. Although that popular buzzword is thrown around all over the place, there isn’t a lot of agreement on what that actually looks like at ground level.
Capacity building is, at it's most basic, “an investment in the effectiveness and future sustainability of a nonprofit.” We believe that one of the best and most cost effective ways to make your organization sustainable is through a (and excuse our language) kickass donor stewardship strategy.
Generally speaking, it is far more cost effective to retain donors than to cultivate new relationships. One of your most effective development strategies can and should be donor stewardship. Your organization is built upon relationships, especially with your donors. Keeping those relationships, building them up over time and not only retaining but tending to them can lead to amazing things for your organization.
Look to the future. Consider what could be:
You have a large group of loyal donors that have increased their giving every year, are engaged with your mission and promote your organization in all of their networks.
Ahhhh, that is a pretty picture. But how do you get there? What are some things to think about when setting up a donor stewardship plan and strategy? Here are some things to consider:
All Donors Aren’t The Same
When developing your donor stewardship plan, remember that people are people and will inherently want and need different things. Consider breaking your plan up by donation level and personal preference. If you currently have a one-size-fits-all donor strategy, it is time to rethink that. Add as many different variations as you can (while still keeping in mind the current capacity of your nonprofit- don't overwhelm yourself or your staff trying to do too much).
So Tell Me What You Want
And the only way to know what their personal preferences are is by asking them and getting to know them. Even if it feels like a waste of time (we know you’re busy), ask donors how they would like to be contacted, how often, and what method they prefer. Then, continue to get to know them. Learn what drives them (recognition, relationship to the mission, sense of community, etc.). Keep notes, pay attention, and do what they ask.
Acknowledging Other Inputs
While we all understand the importance of monetary donations, it is important to recognize other donations, especially time and talent. Donor stewardship is not just about writing a thank you note for a check you received in the mail. Make sure to thank all of the other supporters that donate their resources in other ways. Not only is this a good practice that will build loyalty and make sure your supporters feel recognized, but this also helps to build equity and inclusion in your organization. (If you haven’t read Unicorns Unite, we highly recommend it. They dive deeper into why acknowledging other inputs as just as valuable as money is an act in equity and social justice.)
Do you have a donor stewardship plan in place? If you need more help getting a donor stewardship planning and implementation, we can help! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can set up a free 1 hour strategy session.