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  • Writer's pictureLaurel McCombs

End of Year Stewardship Ideas

As you strive to meet revenue goals and build a long-term, sustainable development program, the importance of donor retention cannot be overstated. And our best bet in increasing donor retention is a consistent focus on stewardship.

The end of the year is often a time when solicitation and donor acquisition take center stage. But to hit your year-end goals and to set yourself up for success next year, take some time to determine your stewardship strategy. Remember that saying thank you and recognizing your donors is only the beginning. The real power of stewardship lies in providing our donors with joy and demonstrating the impact of their gifts.

The good news is that great stewardship doesn’t have to be expensive and it can be quite enjoyable. Here are 10 ideas for stewarding your donors at the end of the year.

1. Steward the Stewards – if you will be asking others to help you with your stewardship strategies, make sure you have modeled the behavior with them. It will be difficult for your volunteers to do a great job if they’ve not experienced a joyful stewardship experience.

2. If you are getting ready to solicit donors and realize that you haven’t properly stewarded them yet this year, make sure you do so now. But be mindful of solicitations they are going to be receiving and make sure that your stewardship feels authentic, even if that means acknowledging that a solicitation is on its way.

3. Mix up your mediums. If you are sending a lot of direct mail solicitations at the end of the year, recognize that any mailed stewardship could get lost in the crowd of holiday mail. Use a different medium, such as email or a phone call to be sure your stewardship message breaks through.

4. We are a visual society and pictures tell a powerful story and recording video has never been easier. Interview a board member, donor, client, fellow staff member. Ask what your organization means to them. Keep it short and authentic. Share it during a remote visit or email it and follow up with a phone call. Post some on your website. All with the message, “Thank you. This is the difference you are making!”

5. Demonstrate impact by showing that you have a plan. Many organizations are great at sharing stories, but, particularly in times of uncertainty, it’s important to also make sure your donors know that you have plan for continuing to achieve your mission and vision. How are you managing COVID, for example? How are you adjusting your strategic plan?

6. Ask board members to call three donors each. The message is “Thank you again for all you do. You and I, our investments, are making a huge a difference. I was just at a board meeting (on site, at a virtual event) and was once again reminded of the lives you and I are changing.”

7. Give your CEO a list of people to call every Monday – “One of the best ways to start my week is to give our treasured (donors, volunteers) a quick call to say thank you. (Insert personalized message on the difference the donor and/or volunteer has made).”

8. Include a photo in your Thanksgiving and/or holiday card with a handwritten message on the back of the picture. Name of the client, date taken, and “Thanks for changing Bobby’s life.”

9. Make wellness calls. “We know this (Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, holiday) could be quite different because of COVID. How are you making out? What’s your family doing? How are you feeling about that? Please know your (name of your organization) family is thinking about you. (Invite to a remote activity)

10. Think about non-monetary gifts your donor has given — ideas, an introduction, time. What results came from them? Even if you’ve already stewarded their monetary gifts, take time now to steward them for their other investments.

BONUS TIP: Get your stewardship plan and calendar ready for next year. Take some time now so you can hit the ground running in January. Revisit your donor clubs and recognition levels, make sure your acknowledgment protocols are running smoothly, and calendar out your strategies to make stewardship a priority all year long!

Need help? Contact us.

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