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Recognition and Stewardship

If your Aunt Minnie from Minnetonka surprised you with a rare family heirloom as a birthday gift, what would you do?

  1. Wait until you saw her at next summer’s family picnic?

  2. Send her $75.00 (as what you deem the dollar value of the gift to be)?

  3. Or send her a heartfelt thank you note?

If you did #1 or #2, what do you think the chances are that she would send you anything on your next birthday? I’d say, probably slim to none.

To me, the very definition of stewardship is a personal thank you to donors. Whether the thank you is in the form of a stewardship report that lets the donor know how his/her gift was invested over the past year or an actual hand-written thank you note, or a thank you phone call, stewardship is a critical part of any nonprofit’s fundraising efforts.

It’s a well-known fundraising axiom that acquiring new donors is more costly than keeping and upgrading those you already have. Appropriate and meaningful donor recognition and stewardship is essential to sustaining and growing lasting relationships with donors in order to achieve fundraising objectives.

Looking to start or further develop a stewardship plan? Consider the following:

  • Recognize those donors who have given regularly over time. Why? Doing so allows the nonprofit to reward the total amount of the gift given over one’s lifetime, thus avoiding stagnant levels of giving year after year.

  • Send thank you letters out within 48 hours of receipt of the gift. This is a great way to demonstrate sincere gratitude.

  • Be sure to update stewardship recognition in the database. This avoids the potential for embarrassment by giving the same memento or thank you letter or other form of recognition every year. Have you ever been told by a donor that you gave him/her the same recognition the previous year? There is certainly nothing personal or heartfelt about that!

  • Spouses count more than you may know. Include them in your stewardship plan. Very often, they’re an integral part of the decision making.

  • The higher the gift amount, the more personalized the recognition should be.

  • Think a little left of center. Some people call this thinking outside the box. The more knowledge you have of your donor, the better you’ll be able to tailor recognition and stewardship to that individual’s personal tastes. For example, giving the same coffee-table book that every donor at a certain level gets may not be as meaningful as a framed photo of the donor visiting your organization or a video thank you from constituents who are served by your nonprofit.

  • The main thing to remember is this: the more meaningful the recognition and stewardship is the deeper the relationship is likely to be.

  • Finally, how about something spectacularly simple like engaging your donor in conversation. Ask how he or she would like to be recognized. You never know, that simple tactic of asking may open up a whole new level of commitment on the part of your donor.

Please add your own special recognition and stewardship tidbits to our list.

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