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Donor Stewardship: The Art of Saying Thank You

Katie cropped to uploadKatie Lord
Senior Consultant

In today’s fast-paced digital arena, many nonprofits have moved to a digital donor acknowledgement system in an effort to save time and increase the speed of gift acknowledgement. While this system can be effective from a recordkeeping standpoint for the organization and the donor, this can often be a missed opportunity to 1) convey true donor appreciation and 2) to enhance future cultivation activities with the donor.

Donor stewardship and re-engagement starts from the time the first gift is received and continues through the next request, building the relationship and engagement between the donor and your organization. Once a gift is received, and it is processed through your donor management database, it is important to respond to the donor in a timely manner and appreciate them in a way that is meaningful to them.

One-size acknowledgment procedures do not fit all donors. Never underestimate the power of a personal phone call or a handwritten thank you note as a way to express your organization’s appreciation.  This can be done in concert with the traditional “template” acknowledgment letter, but the days of the form letter being the only message sent are over.

Creative ways to show appreciation vary from organization to organization, as well as gift type and amount, but some popular ideas include:

  • Phone call or personalized note from a staff member or, barring privacy issues, a client of the agency that benefited from a service of the organization
  • A printed Certificate of Appreciation
  • Invitation for a tour or meeting with the Executive Director
  • Social Media posts or tags
  • Invitation or complimentary tickets to an upcoming event
  • Unique volunteer opportunity or special project

It is important to note that these items are of little or no cost to the organization so as not to affect the budget or raise questions of where funds are actually being spent — i.e. going towards promotional items and not services.

As our lives become more digitized, an organization’s ability to make the human connection and enhance donor experience is one of an organization’s biggest opportunities for differentiation. By personalizing a donor’s relationship with your organization, you are able to continue to build the relationship while acquiring more information about your donor’s interests in specific areas of your organization’s mission.  This knowledge will provide you with more ways to sustain the donor’s involvement in your organization, as well as strengthening the donor relationship.

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