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Updated: May 24, 2023

In my last blog post, 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 transition to being stewardship savvy and make donor relations the “secret sauce” that makes your fundraising more delicious.

First, as mentioned before, 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 my former organization halfway through 2017. Two years later fundraising had increased by 150%. Then it jumped another 150% in 18 months.

Yes. You read that correctly.

A 300% increase in donations in less than 4 years.

Coincidence? I think no.

A robust stewardship program was the main game changer for my organization but, again, it was a methodical, sustained effort, strategically and consistently implemented, and fully implemented into the overall fundraising plan.

Want similar results? Well, here are my top three tips for improving your stewardship savvy.

Capitalize Your 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, 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? Because you need to track 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 as a donor with your organization.

If you already have a CRM, take time to do an “audit” and make sure you are utilizing all the “bells and whistles” it offers to maximize your donor relations. If needed, also make a plan 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 an email, embeddable website forms, etc. Then, much like a search for an employee, you can look for the CRM that best aligns with your organization’s needs.

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 to your co-worker the same as to 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.

Consider New Channels: The COVID pandemic brought unique challenges, but also unique opportunities. Specifically, the move to working from home and isolating meant in-person contact become, at least temporarily, a big no-no. No events. No visits. No lunches. No facility tours. All of which meant no facetime with donors.

My organization quickly realized that if we couldn’t meet face-to-face with donors, we could employ 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 few years 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.

Whether you use a paid video platform (such as BombBomb, ThankView, or Gratavid) or simply shoot a quick message on your smartphone, videos can be a great way to deliver a warm, personal touch while making a huge impact on a donor's perception of your organization. Why? Because video makes you stand out from the crowd and allows you to give the donor a heartfelt, customized acknowledgment.

Remember, it’s never too late to start doing a better job of thanking your donors. It’s not complicated, but it does take a little effort and, again, I think you will be more than pleased with the outcomes!

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