In a recent post, I wrote about my experience making gifts to four organizations in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. I had four different experiences as a donor. If you haven’t read it yet, read Create Your Donor Stewardship Plan.
I received many comments and responses to my original post. As a result, I decided to write a follow-up.
My donor stewardship experience
Here’s what I received, as a donor, after recent gifts to nonprofit organizations in Norfolk and Virginia Beach:
- No thank you letter of any kind.
- A three-sentence letter which was a tax receipt.
- A brief but prompt and personal thank you email from the development director.
- A heart-warming thank you letter about specific clients of the organization and a need that my gift helped meet.
In the original post, I encouraged you to think about your own donor stewardship plan and create a new one if you don’t have an organized way of thanking donors.
As an Executive Director or Development Director there many daily tasks to complete. Subsequently, some tasks are left incomplete. The In Box is never empty. I understand. I’ve been there too. Creating a donor stewardship plan is just one of many things on your To Do list. I encourage you to push forward.
What is holding you back?
What is preventing you from having a kickin’ donor stewardship program? Good donor stewardship is one of our core development practices. But based on my own recent donor experiences, I’m here to say…we can do better.
What makes it challenging to send prompt, meaningful thank you letters? What could you put in place now to better thank your donors and boost your donor retention?
Donor stewardship questions to consider
I encourage you to take 5 minutes and think about:
- What am I doing well to thank donors and send prompt gift acknowledgement letters?
- How would I like to improve our donor stewardship?
- Are there any obstacles?
- Which changes can I put in place today to improve our donor stewardship?
What’s most important about your gift acknowledgments? Is it the speed with which you respond? What about accuracy? Or is it connection…a letter that’s heartwarming and meaningful and speaks to the donor’s interests? Are you sacrificing one of those elements in service to another?
Is it good enough?
What is good about your donor stewardship, and what do you consider good enough?
Is it enough to send an automatically generated thank you letter for an online gift, or should you also send a personalized thank you letter?
How is the relationship between gift processing, the accounting office, and the development office? Is that relationship working well, or could it improve? How?
What practice or activity can you put in place this month to improve your gift acknowledgment and donor stewardship?
I encourage you to be a secret shopper to your organization and make a modest online gift. You might also ask a close friend or family member if they would do the same. To take this exercise further, give a modest online gift to another organization you admire. See what happens, and what you receive as a donor. You might be surprised. It may provide insight into donors’ experiences when they give to you, and when they give to other organizations.
Give me a call if you’d like to improve your organization’s core practices of donor stewardship and retention. The success of your fundraising and development work is built on them. I’d love to help you find a solution.