By Kristi Howard-Shultz
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and there’s no better time to express appreciation to your donors. In a year that has been so tough, could we ever love them more?
Start small but start now
With only a few days to drop cards in the mail, there’s still time to send a handwritten note. You can send notes to key donors or just those that have given this month. Your development team can send them but, when it comes to thanking donors, the more the merrier!
Involve others in your organization. Not only does this offer a variety of voices and perspectives to donors, it is also a wonderful way to engage board members in fundraising without having them make an ask. Sending a note from program staff can offer insight into the work of your nonprofit and help staff themselves understand the value of fundraising. A note from a beneficiary of your services can help the donor understand the impact of their gift and the beneficiary connect with another side of your work.
Whether you actually start now or plan to later, handwritten notes are a wonderful way to steward donors, and expanding who is responsible for stewardship in your organization lightens the load and has many benefits beyond the work itself.
Break it down into segments. You may be your development “department”—a one person shop. You don’t have to have a sophisticated database manager to get started. Below are some ideas on how to break up stewardship by segment so that it is a manageable task—both in volume and messaging.
- New donors
- Returned donors
- Monthly donors
- Major donors
- Long-term donors
If you do have a specialized staff with greater human and financial resources, all the better! These segments can be fleshed out and all receive regular and specialized messages, outside of gift acknowledgements, tailored just for them.
Make it a habit
It’s easy to put stewardship on the back burner. Schedule a regularly occurring time that’s hard to miss. Maybe it coincides with a staff or board meeting. Maybe it’s not realistic with your current level of staff and volunteers to make it monthly; so make it quarterly. The key is to get it on the calendar and then backdate all the related tasks.
- Call donors the first Wednesday of the month/the day of the board meeting
- One week out: Run lists (no more than 10 calls per person)
- One month out: Write script (most will be voicemails; keep it short and sweet)
- Three days out: Distribute the lists and scripts to your staff, board, and beneficiaries that are helping you make the calls
- Three days after: Follow up (clean the lists, say thank you to callers, note feedback, record gifts; some donors make an additional gift when you call to say “thank you!”)
What stories can you tell and who can you recognize via:
- Your annual gala
- Local awards
- Earned media/cause marketing
- Social media
- A newsletter drip
This takes advanced planning and sometimes tremendous coordination. It is well worth the effort to celebrate all that you do and those that help you achieve your mission.
It pays dividends
Everybody wins when you expand and formalize your stewardship efforts.
And, in the end, you raise more money to serve more and better!
Kristi Howard Shultz, founder of Kristi Howard-Shultz Consulting, is a nonprofit executive that leads with head and heart. With 20+ years of experience working for nonprofits including nationally-known, time-tested institutions like The Boy Scouts of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Boys & Girls Clubs, she has worked in nearly every capacity of fundraising throughout her career. She has a proven track record of success in board and fund development, campaign management, and capacity building. She has built a strong reputation within the community and is sought after for her industry expertise and thought leadership. Kristi is a natural relationship builder who loves to put plans into action. Championing “firsts” for organizations is her specialty.