What is Donor Stewardship?

Donor stewardship is the process of nurturing and maintaining relationships with donors to encourage their ongoing support for a nonprofit organization. It involves consistent communication, gratitude, and engagement to ensure that donors feel valued, informed, and connected to the organization’s mission.

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Why is Donor Stewardship Important?

Donor stewardship is vital because it helps to build long-lasting relationships with supporters, ultimately leading to increased donor retention and consistent funding for the organization. When donors feel appreciated and connected to the cause, they are more likely to continue their financial support, participate in events, and spread the word to their own network.

By effectively engaging the networks of several committed individuals, a nonprofit can cultivate a robust community of supporters that is crucial for the organization’s growth and successful execution of its mission.

Donor Retention by the Numbers

According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, donor retention in 2022 was around 42.6%. This means that for every 100 donors acquired in a year, only about 43 will continue to support the organization in the following year. This low retention rate highlights the need for nonprofits to invest in effective donor stewardship strategies to maintain and grow their donor base.

To illustrate the potential impact of improving donor retention rates, let’s consider a hypothetical example.

A nonprofit organization has 1,000 donors, each contributing an average of $100 annually. With a 42.6% retention rate, the organization would retain 426 donors, totaling $42,600 in donations in the following year. If the organization were to implement effective donor stewardship strategies and increase its retention rate to 65%, they would retain 650 donors, which translates to $65,000 in donations. This improvement in retention would result in an additional $22,400 in donations, providing the organization with more resources to further its mission!

Donor Stewardship Best Practices

Donor stewardship is all about proactive communication and inclusivity! Keep in mind these best practices to help cultivate real and meaningful relationships: 

Personalize Your Communications

Tailor your messages to each donor by addressing them by name and acknowledging their specific contributions. Personalized communications make donors feel valued and create a stronger connection between them and your organization.

Timely and Genuine Acknowledgment

Express gratitude promptly after receiving a donation, ideally within 24-48 hours. A timely, heartfelt thank you helps to convey your appreciation and strengthen the relationship with your donor.

Regular Updates on Impact

Keep donors informed about the impact of their contributions by sharing updates, stories, and milestones. Demonstrating the tangible results of their support reinforces their commitment to your cause and encourages future giving.

Involve Donors in Your Activities

Engage donors by inviting them to participate in events or volunteer opportunities. This involvement helps donors feel more connected to your organization and deepens their understanding of your mission.

Ask for Feedback

Seek input from your donors about their giving experience and suggestions for improvement. Listening to and acting on donor feedback not only enhances their experience but also demonstrates that you value their opinion and involvement.

Avoid These Four Donor Relationship Mistakes

For effective donor stewardship, be mindful to sidestep these common mistakes (spoiler, they are centered around poor communication):

  1. Lack of Personalization: Donors want to feel like they are more than just a name on a list, but an integral part of the organization’s mission. Personalization is key to building long-term relationships.
  2. Inconsistent Communication:When donors feel left in the dark about an organization’s progress, they are less likely to feel connected to the cause and may choose to support other nonprofits that do a better job of keeping them informed.
  3. Overwhelming Communication: Bombarding donors with too many emails, letters, or phone calls can make them feel overwhelmed and less likely to engage with the organization.
  4. Lack of Follow-up: When donors do not receive timely and sincere follow-up after making a gift, it can leave them feeling undervalued and unappreciated. Proper follow-up is essential to maintaining long-term relationships.

How Donor Stewardship Software Can Help

Donor Stewardship software allows nonprofits to save time and energy by using  one single platform to handle everything from communication to reporting. For instance, Raiser’s Edge NXT, offers end to end gift management, dashboard and reporting, and numerous ways to stay in touch with your whole donor database. A flexible donor and fundraising platform can be the catalyst to scale your nonprofit without the hassle.