Your nonprofit should develop a wide-reaching donor stewardship strategy to build strong, long-lasting relationships with supporters.
But your donor stewardship shouldn’t just be broad—you also need to make sure that your stewardship efforts are memorable.
Creating unforgettable donor stewardship experiences for your nonprofit’s supporters helps your organization stand out from the crowd. Plus, these experiences encourage donors to continue giving and can even result in those supporters increasing their donation amounts over time.
From planning special events to offering donors unexpected gifts, here are six memorable ways to steward your donors:
- Handwrite your thank you letters.
- Plan a special event.
- Call donors.
- Create a donor recognition wall.
- Ask for donors’ feedback.
- Send a gift.
Use these tips to show appreciation for all of your donors, whether they contributed online donations, in-kind gifts, matching gift funds, major donations, or any other forms of support.
1. Handwrite your thank you letters.
Unless you have a large volunteer pool, you probably won’t have the time to write every thank you letter you send by hand. Instead, identify a few donors who have gone above and beyond— such as a long-time monthly donor or a new major donor— and send handwritten thank you notes or letters to these individuals. In the letter, tell them that you appreciate their support and show them what their support has done for your organization.
For letters you send to other donors, you can still add a personal touch by asking your organization’s fundraising director or another leader to handwrite the sign-off.
No matter how you write the letters, you should always address donors by name and reference their specific donation amount. This shows them that you recognize the impact that their specific donation has made and that you’re grateful for their contribution.
2. Plan a special event as part of your donor stewardship strategy.
Recruit staff members and volunteers to serve on a fundraising event committee. These members will take on essential roles such as planning the event, acquiring sponsors, improving
the guest experience, and more.
Here are a few engaging events that you could put on:
- A virtual or in-person walk-a-thon
- A gala or dinner at a unique location, such as the local zoo or aquarium
- An educational event bringing together experts in your nonprofit’s field to share their insights with your supporters
As with your other fundraising efforts, you’ll need a far-reaching marketing strategy to get the word out and encourage donors to attend. Use multiple communication channels, sell branded merchandise ahead of time, and offer attendees incentives like raffles or giveaways to spark excitement.
3. Call donors.
Calling donors is a special, personal touch you can add to your donor stewardship approach. Donors will appreciate the fact that you’ve taken time out of your day to chat with them and verbally express your appreciation.
Use the information stored in your donor management system to personalize these conversations. Thank donors for their specific giving amount and reference any past engagement they’ve had with your organization. Then, offer them additional ways to engage that appeal to their interests and preferences.
For example, pull data from your event management platform to look at a donor’s event attendance record. On the call, you can then share a few upcoming events or campaigns that the donor might be most interested in based on their previous involvement.
Remember: The sooner you call donors after they give, the better. According to a Bloomerang study, donors who receive one phone call within 90 days of their donation are retained 41% of the time. That number jumps to 58% if donors receive more than one call in the 90-day period.
4. Create a donor recognition wall.
A donor recognition wall publicly displays donors’ names and donation amounts or levels. The wall can be physical or virtual. Here’s what that can look like:
- A physical donor recognition wall is typically a large display at your nonprofit’s headquarters or facilities. It can be made of any type of material, but common options include glass, brick, or a series of plaques. You can also choose to display your donors’ names on a digital screen.
- A virtual donation wall is typically a website page that lists donors’ names and contribution levels. This page might include various multimedia elements such as videos and photos to increase engagement.
The type of donor recognition wall you choose will depend on your nonprofit’s work and the resources they have. If your nonprofit has a building that donors and other community members are free to walk through, a physical donor wall can be a great reminder of what donor support means to your organization. On the other hand, if your supporters are spread out all around the country or world, an online donor wall might work best.
5. Ask for donors’ feedback regularly as part of your donor stewardship.
Most donors expect to receive a receipt or acknowledgment email and a message of gratitude after they make a donation to your organization. If you’d like to go above and beyond, you can also ask them to submit their feedback.
Asking donors for feedback gives them another way to engage with your organization. Plus, when you ask for their input, supporters will feel like valued partners in the work you do.
Send donors feedback surveys with questions such as:
- Why did you choose to give?
- On a scale of 1-10, how convenient was the donation process? How could we make the process more convenient?
- Do you feel like you have a strong understanding of how your donation will be used?
- How likely are you to donate to our organization again?
Where possible, adjust your donation or communication processes based on donors’ responses. This helps create a donation process that appeals to supporters’ preferences and needs, making it more likely that they’ll donate again.
6. Send a gift.
Your donors give because they support your nonprofit’s mission, not because they expect something in return. However, it never hurts to send supporters a small token of appreciation to let them know you’re thinking of them.
These gifts might include:
- Free merchandise, such as a branded t-shirt, hat, or mug
- A gift card or coupon book for local businesses
- A free publication, such as your quarterly magazine
- A gift basket with a variety of small items
These gifts should be unexpected, so don’t just send them right after donors give. Spontaneous gifts can make donors feel appreciated all the time, not just when they donate.
Memorable donor stewardship efforts can be much more impactful than your routine, run-of-the-mill outreach efforts. When you create an engaging, rewarding donor experience, it will be much easier to retain donors over time.