6 Tips To Up Your Donor Stewardship Plan In 2021

Tips and ideas for upping your donor love

Julie Edwards
January 5, 2021 · 3 min read
6 Tips To Up Your Donor Stewardship Plan In 2021

I think we all can agree that when the clock turns midnight on December 31, pretty much everyone with a pulse will be giddy with relief and ready to embrace 2021 gleefully. For the majority of us, looking at 2020 through the rearview mirror will be a more than welcome sight.

And as you're considering your personal resolutions for the new year, it would be prudent to also cast a glance over your professional goals, as well. And there is one area where a little investment yields a big return.

Donor relations. 

Sadly, I’ve seen many good nonprofits fail time and time again when it comes to stewarding their supporters. The lackluster acknowledgment email. The same old tired thank you note. The overuse of “we” instead of “you.”

Worst of all, no thank you whatsoever. 

Yes. You read that right.

There are organizations who NEVER. THANK. THEIR. DONORS.

It hurts my fundraiser heart to even write those words. But it happens. Every single day.

I implore you to not be that nonprofit. Don’t be so focused on landing the gift that you forget to love on the giver. 

Donor love is your friend. And you need to start today. It doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. It just has to be authentic and heartfelt. 

If you don’t know where to start, here are some tips.

1. Assess your assets & team

Who is going to champion your donor relation efforts? How much time can you dedicate to your program per month? Are there volunteers that can help? Do you have budget monies for cards, postage, and other needed items? How many donors do you have addresses for? How many do you have emails for? Once you answer these questions, you can develop a plan of adoration.

2. Add video to your thank you plan

Send your donors a personalized video after each donation. Start with a warm and personal intro followed by a story or testimonial of how their donation is already making a difference. If you can't personalize every thank you video, come up with a tiered system for thanking gifts. For example, any new recurring gifts or gifts over $500 get a personalized video (United Way example) while all other donations receive a generic thank you video (Angels' Arms example). Just make it warm, make it personal. Imagine the donor is a favorite aunt or uncle and speak as you would to them.

If you want to involve your team, board, and volunteers, you should consider investing in a video platform like Gratavid. Their video request feature makes it easy to text anyone asking them to record a thank you video. Watch their 5-minute demo on thanking a list of donors.

3. Shower your social with gratitude

Share your successes that were made possible through donations on social media. Thank and tag businesses that give. Show the work you are doing every day and thank your donors for being the ones to make it happen. Host LIVE Facebook sessions where you show what goes on behind the scenes because of their donations.

4. Start with an extra quarterly touchpoint

Beyond your thank you letter or video (that should be promptly sent to EVERY. SINGLE. DONOR.) you can up your donor love game by adding one donor touchpoint per quarter. And it doesn’t have to be costly. The touchpoint can be an email sending holiday wishes (think Valentine’s or maybe a day related to your mission!), a personalized video, or even a personal phone call. Again, focus on a genuine, heartfelt message showing the donor how they are making a difference.

5. Focus on the first time donors

If you can’t do anything else, you ABSOLUTELY should focus on first-time donors. Tons of research for many years has shown that most organizations lose 70% of donors after their first gift! But just like in any business, keeping a customer is much less costly than acquiring a new one, so make sure your customer (the donor) is receiving the best service possible (timely, thoughtful gratitude). Build a first-time donor “nurture series” where you love them up 2-4 times over the course of 2-3 months.

6. Trash the thasking

The cycle for donor love should be ask-thank-report. You ask for a gift. You thank the donor for their gift. You report back how their gift made a difference. Rinse and repeat. Don’t mix it up. Don’t thank and also ask (also known as thasking) in the same communication. Your donors are not ATMs so don’t treat them like one.

Again, start simple, start small, but start. I can personally vouch that showering donors with love works. But it’s not an overnight pay-off. It’s a long-game play. 

Basically, think of stewardship like a marriage:  Your organization is partnered with your donors, and throughout the year you share special moments, just like a couple! Holidays. Anniversaries. Birthdays. “Thinking of you” texts. “We appreciate you” videos. Shower them with a little attention, and it will make the partnership that much sweeter!

WRITTEN BY

Julie Edwards

Founder @ J. Edwards Consulting

Noted by NPO experts as a proven fundraising superstar, Julie Edwards boasts a demonstrated track record of increasing revenue, leading high performance teams, and motivating large groups of people to affect positive change. With 25+ years of marketing communications experience, and more than a decade of nonprofit development and leadership experience, she now shares her expertise with clients through her consulting business, J. Edwards Consulting.

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