Take care of your people, and they will take care of you.
THE POWER OF JANUARY STEWARDSHIP
Phew! You made it through another end-of-year giving season! Time to check that off your list, take a breather, regroup and start looking ahead to spring campaigns and events, right? Well, sort of. But your end-of-year campaign isn’t really over.
Yes – give credit where it’s due, take pride in your work and even come up for a little air. But don’t forget that one of the most crucial parts of any stellar fundraising campaign is your post-campaign donor stewardship initiatives.
Most nonprofits see 20% or more of their annual revenue come through in December – that’s a lot of donors and a lot of dollars! With December being such a busy month for nonprofits, it’s easy to lose sight of the stewardship that should happen in January and continue throughout the year. Yes, every donor should receive some sort of tax letter or receipt for their gift, but is that really enough? I’d say probably not.
THE POTENTIAL OF JANUARY STEWARDSHIP
Think about the last time you got an out-of-the-blue call, email, text, or even a letter from an old friend or a relative for no reason other than to say hello and that they were thinking about you. Feels good, right? What if you could make your donors feel the same?
This is essentially donor stewardship – making donors feel valued, helping them develop and maintain a relationship with the organization and laying the groundwork for future giving. And while building these relationships and good feelings isn’t necessarily hard, it’s time consuming and takes a lot of effort. But it’s worth it!
While studies vary, it’s estimated that it’s 5-10 times more costly to acquire a new donor than it is to retain an existing donor. The goal of donor acquisition programs or initiatives is to recruit new donors to your mission. You must start from scratch to educate them on why the mission matters, cultivate the relationship and eventually inspire them enough to make a gift. Donor acquisition absolutely matters and is needed for any nonprofit. But, with donor retention, the name of the game is caring for the people who have already shown they care about you.
THE POSSIBILITIES OF JANUARY STEWARDSHIP
Remember when I said stewardship isn’t necessarily hard, but it takes a lot of time and effort? Engage your development committee, a board, a staff leadership team, volunteers, or even mission recipients to help with a thank-a-thon. And remember – doing something is always better than doing nothing!
- For any first time donors – consider a personal phone call AND a handwritten note to say thanks. Invite them for a tour or coffee so you can get to know each other.
- For a recaptured donor (someone who was in lapsed donor status, but made an end-of-year gift) – send personal emails thanking them for re-engaging in your mission.
- For a current or retained donor – consider a combination of phone calls, handwritten notes and emails to say thanks (based on the size of the gift). If no one at your organization knows them personally, take the initiative to meet with them and better understand why they decided to support your mission.
Saying thanks across mediums amplifies the gratitude. Think postcards, quick videos from your phone (including beneficiaries if possible), and direct mail! Simply lay out how much was raised and what that money will do.
And finally, if you don’t have a donor stewardship plan or matrix, consider taking time in January to build one out. Because stewardship doesn’t end in January. It can be as simple or complex as your organization can handle. Not sure what this looks like? We’ve included a sample below, but it’s by no means exhaustive.
|Acknowledgement||Timing after gift||Method||New Donors||Recaptured Donors||Major Donors||Mid-Level Donors||Base Level Donors|
|Thank you receipt||1-3 days||email/mail||X||X||X||X||X|
|Thank you call||1-5 days||phone||X||X|
|Thank you email||1-5 days||X||X||X||X|
|Thank you note (handwritten)||1-2 weeks||X||X|
|Welcome (or welcome back) email||1-2 weeks||X||X|
|Stewardship||Timing after gift||Method||New Donors||Recaptured Donors||Major Donors||Mid-Level Donors||Base Level Donors|
|Personal outreach – updates, gratitude, event invitations, advice ask||quarterly||phone/email||X||X|
|Handwritten note||6-8 months||X||X||X||X|
|E-newsletter blast||monthly or quarterly||X||X||X||X||X|
|Donor anniversary recognition||annually||email/mail||X||X||X||X||X|
|Personal meeting||bi-annually||virtual or in-person||X|
|November gratitude letter or holiday card||annually||mail/email||X||X||X||X||X|
If you need help with your stewardship plans, we’d love to work with you! You can reach out to our team any time. Or, consider taking some time to watch a webinar we did with Jeff Hensley at Armstrong McGuire. While it’s focused on retaining COVID donors, you can apply the same tips to all your donors, all year long!
Here’s to 2023,
Lauren Williams, Client Success Executive