Make 2021 the Year of Stewardship

3 tips to up your stewardship in 2021

Julie Edwards
January 19, 2021 · 4 min read
Make 2021 the Year of Stewardship

In my last blog post, 6 Tips To Up Your Donor Stewardship Plan In 2021, I discussed why donor relations is the single best investment a non-profit organization can make.  

And you all responded. And you said, “More please!”

So I’m here with some additional guidance about how your organization can make 2021 the “Year of Stewardship,” or when your organization decides to make donor relations your secret sauce that makes your fundraising more delicious.

First, as mentioned in the earlier blog post, I can personally vouch that showering donors with love works. But, again, it’s not an overnight pay-off. It’s a long-game play. 

I implemented a stewardship program at one organization halfway through 2017. Two years later fundraising had increased 150%. 

Yes. You read that correctly. 150%!

Coincidence? I think no.

A robust stewardship program was the main game changer for their organization but, again, it was a methodical, sustained effort, strategically and consistently implemented, as part of their fundraising plan. 

Here are my three tips

1. Capitalize on CRM

If your organization doesn’t already have a constituent relationship management platform (or CRM aka “donor database”), now is the time to invest in one. There are literally more CRM options on the market than you can shake a stick at, and at every price point and with every mix of functionality. So many that when you start to research, you may feel like the proverbial deer in the headlights. 

So why should your organization have a CRM? KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, the measures which show how your efforts are paying off. . . or not. A CRM gives your organization the tools to record every gift, every touchpoint, and every communication with donors. It’s like a donor stalking tool but in a good way. In a way that enables you to provide them the best possible experience with your organization.

If you already have a CRM, take this time to do an “audit” and make sure you are utilizing all the bells and whistles it offers to maximize your donor relations. And in the spirit of starting a new year with a fresh outlook, resolve to perform a data clean-up to ensure your record-keeping is the best it can be. 

PRO TIP: Before you start looking for a CRM, write down a shortlist of the top things you want and need from a platform such as affordability, ability to send email, etc. Then, much like a search for an employee, you can look for the CRM that best aligns with your organization’s needs.

2. Divide Your Donors

You can easily up your stewardship game simply by segmenting your donors into groups and customizing your communications to them. After all, do you talk to your mom the same way you talk to your co-worker? Or your co-worker the same as your bestie?

There are numerous ways to segment, but no “one size fits all” approach, so focus on what works for your organization. Do you have a small list of donors? Then maybe you just want to divide into current supporters and supporters who last gave last year (LYBUNTS) or at some time in the past (SYBUNTS). 

If your current supporter list is larger, then you may want to divide out mid-level and major donors from all donors. Or monthly versus non-monthly. Or event-only versus year-round donors. Or, D, all of the above. Then you can target specific supporters with the best messaging, thanking and reporting for their giving level and type.

3. Consider New Channels

2020 brought unique challenges, but also unique opportunities. Specifically, the move to working from home and self-isolating due to the COVID pandemic has meant in-person contact has become, at least temporarily, a big no-no. No events. No visits. No lunches. No facility tours. All which means no facetime with donors.

So if you can’t meet face-to-face with your donors, consider the next best option: video. After all, if a picture is worth 1,000 words, how much is a video worth? Possibly thousands of dollars.

I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has NOT had a virtual meeting in the past year for work. Or whose kids have not had virtual school. Or who has not enjoyed a virtual social hour with friends.

And just as you can use FaceTime, Zoom, Google Meet, or other platforms for work, school, and personal communication, you also can use the power of video to provide a personalized experience and connection to your organization’s donors. 

Platforms like Gratavid allow your organization to film messages of thanks that can be delivered right to a donor’s inbox. This warm, personal touch can make a huge impact on a donor's perception of your organization because it makes you stand out from the crowd and allows you to give the donor a heartfelt, customized acknowledgement.

Raising money has never been more urgent.  If you want to realize big gains, make 2021 the Year of Stewardship. Don’t wait until December to say “if only.”

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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