Stewardship is the name for the activities that you undertake to acknowledge, thank and recognize donors and are part of the cultivation process to encourage donors to increase the frequency and amount of their donations to the organization. Many stations have well-planned and documented procedures for stewardship, while others are a bit more hit-and-miss. This document is meant to be a starting point for developing your own stewardship plan.
Transactional vs philanthropic giving
Transactional giving is the type of giving that we’re all used to – pledge drive, renewals, direct mail asks, etc. This is the sort of gift that is in reaction to a single appeal rather than a concerted cultivation effort. They are generally smaller in size, though donors will often give several transactional gifts within a year.
Philanthropic giving or major giving refers more to the process of getting the gift than the size of the gift. Generally, these gifts are defined as the type of gift that is a stretch for the donor and is considered by the donor to be a sizeable donation. For some, this could mean $500, while for others, it could mean $10,000 or more. The big difference is the cultivation and solicitation that the organization does to get the donor to the point of making the gift.
Thoughts about stewardship
All gifts require a level of stewardship that is appropriate to the gift and that will best satisfy the needs of the donor. So, as you plan your stewardship program, make sure you are thanking your donors in ways that important to and meaningful for them.
Stations have a tendency to stick with premium-based stewardship programs that are tiered to reflect the different levels of transactional giving but don’t really have a program for philanthropic gifts. Studies have shown that across the board, the most important thing that an organization can do in its stewardship program is to make sure donors know what their gifts were used for. For that reason, before you think about any kind of gifts, make sure that you build in communications procedures that keep donors informed of your activities and how their gifts made a difference.
Things to think about when designing a stewardship program
- Re-think all premiums and make sure they are helping you across all giving levels – many donors say that they don’t want their dollars spent on premiums. They would rather not get a gift so that more of their funds go to the organization’s operations.
- Continuity and consistency of messaging – make sure that all of your communications around fundraising, from on-air pitches to thank-you letters are consistent, keeping all these considerations in mind.
- Common language
- Consistent messaging across all channels
- Keep up-to-date on fundraising and stewardship best practices. And, when you make a change in your program whether it be the language in a solicitation letter or the kind of premium you’re using, do effectiveness testing to be sure it’s working the way you expect.
- Make sure that you have a 360० view of constituents. Stations have unique relationships with their donors because so many of them are not just donors. They may also be on-air programmers, off-air volunteers, board members or underwriters. In order to do effective fundraising, it’s important to know all the ways a station touches a donor and to make sure that you have good record-keeping, follow-up procedures in place and that you keep track of all donor interactions across the organization. Here are a few things that you will want to keep track of:
- Relationships (connections between people) – Who else in your database does this donor have a relationship with? family, friends, co-workers, etc.
- Affiliations (relationships between people and organizations) – Where does this donor work? Where else does he volunteer? Is she on the board of a local funder? This kind of information is important to keep track of.
- Notes / Descriptions / Activities – Keep accurate, up-to-date notes of your cultivation and stewardship activities and make sure that everyone in your organization is doing the same.
- Tracking interactions – Generally, this should be done in your donation tracking software, if you don’t have that capability, you may want to keep ‘call sheets’ in paper files.
- Donor ratings – while stations don’t exactly fit the 80-20 rule (80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your donors), they still have a small number of donors that make up a much larger percentage of the dollars they bring in. Since you can’t give a lot of personal attention to every donor, you have to have some way to rate the capability, capacity and inclination of your potentially larger donors so that you can ensure that the ones with the greatest likelihood of making substantial donations are the ones you are spending your time with. It’s important to have a method of rating your potential donors so that you make the best use of your board and staff time in pursuing those donors.
- Development Calendar – Donor stewardship is made much easier by using a Development Calendar. A sample Development Calendar is available for download (below) that provides examples of the kinds of donor outreach efforts you want to schedule on your calendar, and includes approximate time frames for when those activities should take place. Though your station may not be able to take on all of these donor stewardship efforts at the same time, each task that you add to your current efforts should bring your station more revenue. Be sure that you track the results from your efforts so that you can determine how each effort is impacting your overall fundraising program.
This information is provided by the National Federation of Community Broadcasters