Major Donor Stewardship

Sections of this topic

    For this discussion, I refer you to one of my earliest postings, What Is A Major Gift? for a definition of that term, and I add one additional criterion … that it is not a one-time gift

    “Stewardship,” in the context of development/fundraising, is doing what needs to be done to keep donors feeling good about having given, and doing what needs to be done to get them to want to keep giving.

    “Stewardship” is, in effect, “Cultivating” the donor in anticipation of when they are ASKed for their next gift.

    The two terms are essentially synonymous, with the latter taking place before the gift is solicited/obtained, and the former taking place following the contribution.

    So, what needs to be done?? Let’s start with the easy stuff:

    The “thank you” for the first gift is step one of the stewardship process. There can, in fact, be more than one “thank you.” There can be a “thank you” from the Board Chair, one-or-more Board Members, the CEO/ED, the staff person(s) who guide the program that will be funded (in-part or fully) by the gift, and/or someone who will benefit from the program funded by the gift. And, by no means, does that list limit who can proffer a “thank you” – which can be in person, in writing and/or electronic.

    Step Two could include periodic newsletters, emails, personal (handwritten) notes and DVDs showing how the gift has made a difference. Again, that was not meant to be a complete list.

    Step Three could be one-or-more invitations to see the organization serving its community.

    Step Four could be recruitment to participate in providing the program services – i.e., reading to kids, visiting with oldsters, working the serving line at a soup kitchen. The possibilities are endless … well, almost.

    Step Five could be the naming of a program or part of a program in honor of the donor and/or someone s/he wishes to honor – keeping in mind that you don’t want to name a program or part of a program unless you know (not believe or hope) that funding will continue for that service.

    Step Six could be recruiting/training the donor to be a spokesperson for the organization.

    In Step Seven you could recruit/train the donor to help you evaluate other (potential) donors.

    In Step Eight, that donor could be soliciting major gifts on your behalf.

    For your organization, there can be as many steps in the stewardship process as would work for you and your donors, keeping in mind that some donors like to be cultivated, some don’t, and some are somewhere in the middle.

    Also, it is not my intention to suggest that all of the above numbered steps should be implemented, nor that they should be implemented in any specific order … although some of those steps logically come before others.

    If you’d like to add to the list, please write to me, Hank, and, if I use your thoughts/comments in a future posting, I’ll provide attribution.

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