Stewardship 101

David Kulivan, Senior Consultant

You’ve just closed a major gift with a donor you’ve been cultivating for a long time. Congratulations! You’re done. Right? Not exactly.

An oft-neglected part of fundraising is stewardship. Since fundraising is all about relationships, and since your organization works hard to be donor-centric, you are now entering the “stewardship phase” with this donor.

Stewardship is not the place to skimp in your relationship management strategy. I’ve often found it the most rewarding part of donor engagement.

A few years ago, a donor with whom I had worked for years cultivating for corporate and personal gifts, mentioned during a stewardship hunting trip about wanting to make sure his vision for the country endured for his grandkids long after he was gone. This led to more substantial discussions about establishing a planned gift to fulfill his vision, and ultimately a large documented planned gift. If not for those stewardship visits it’s likely the planned gift may never have happened.

It’s All About Relationships
We hear this all the time in fundraising, but it really is true: It’s all about relationships. Consider stewardship as an opportunity to deepen your organization’s relationship with the donor, show them the impact of their gift, learn about future giving opportunities, and identify additional prospects. In fact, you may want to look at stewardship as something that begins in small steps during the cultivation phase. How does your organization recognize donors? Discussing this during cultivation helps a prospect begin to feel like they are part of the family.

More Than Just a Thank You
Stewardship is more than saying thank you. And it’s certainly more than setting the stage for the next gift. Just like with your donor cultivation steps, it is a chance for you as a fundraiser to demonstrate something powerful to the donor: the joy of giving to your organization. Look for ways to connect them with impactful achievements of your organization that dovetail with their passions.

Giving Societies
Does your organization have a formal program that recognizes donors? If so, that’s great. But not all organizations have these programs. Don’t fret! Find ways to make the donor feel that they are in a club within the club. Develop your own stewardship plan – much like the cultivation plan you created to close the gift – that puts you in the right position to ask for future gifts.

Networks, Networks, Networks
Stewardship is not just an opportunity to get to know your donor better. It’s a chance to get to know their networks. Donors, particularly high-net-worth donors, have spheres of influence to which you can gain access, helping you expand your prospect portfolio. Not every donor is comfortable putting on a fundraising hat, but for those that are, utilizing them as natural partners to identify and cultivate new prospects can pay big dividends. Your donor may be thrilled to introduce you to their peers and discuss how exciting it is to be a donor to your great organization.

Interested in learning how to infuse stewardship into your organization’s development operations? Contact us and let the experts at A.C. Fitzgerald & Associates help you discover ways to display gratitude and impact to your donors.

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