Stewardship is the last step in the donor life cycle, but it is most important.

In the donor life cycle, stewardship is often thought of as the last step in the process. After you identify, cultivate, ask, and receive the gift for your organization, all you have left to do is thank your donor, right? It’s not that easy.  

While it is last in the donor life cycle, it is of the utmost importance to build lasting relationships with your donor that will go beyond their one-time gift. The goal for stewardship is to build on the trust you’ve established with your donor that lead to the first check being written. Developing a stewardship plan for your donors can lead to further donations long-term and improve overall favorability for your organization. Something as simple as a phone call can increase a donors next donation by 30%. 

How does an organization develop a stewardship plan?

It depends on your team’s capacity and the resources you have available. To start, look at the frequency of the communication you would like to set in order to connect with your donors. According to Rainmaking: The Fundraiser’s Guide to Major Gifts by Roy C. Jones and Andrew Olsen, first answering the following: 

  1. How often do you talk with your donors currently?  
  2. What ways do you currently communicate with them?

Improve Donor Communication

From there, you can outline where to start improving and increasing communications. Build out a schedule for birthdays, anniversaries, and other important dates. Look for unique stewardship opportunities. Decide what level or giving should get a phone call versus a letter or a newsletter. Test and experiment as you go to see the progress. Charity Science outlines excellent low-cost experimentation that will yield results. See what your donors respond to and where you can increase your communication after a gift is given.  

Like when you build relationships with friends, you are listening for ways to build trust. Odds are, you are as passionate about your organizations mission as your donors are. Want to learn more about donor management and the donor life cycle? Check out the Julep Blog! 

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