INN Network Philanthropy Director Jeffrey Woolverton offers these best practices:

No practice is more important in the fund development process than stewardship. As competition for donor-investment has increased and the expectation of organizational transparency and reporting becomes routine, so has the need for a commitment to real stewardship.

Many nonprofit organizations may not have a long-term commitment or vision to donor development. Oftentimes it’s quicker to just ask for money without involving and re-engaging people. But in the long run those same nonprofits may not build relationships with donors, and will not maximize the potential for their organization in terms of dollars raised.

Stewardship is a process where you care for and protect your philanthropic support – gifts and the donors who give them – in a way that responds to the donors’ expectations and respects the act of giving.

Examples of stewardship best practices are:

  • Saying thank you
  • Showing results
  • Recognizing people
  • Making them feel good about their gift
  • Commitment to valuing donors
  • Sincerity toward donors as more than checkbooks
  • The ability to intentionally draw a donor into a deeper relationship
  • Turning a donor into an advocate for your organization
  • Start of cultivation strategies for the next gift
  • Being open and transparent with your donor

In spite of its importance, this vital function is often neglected. In an urgent need to fundraise, and in the relief and joy in securing a gift, organizations may forget that the real relationship begins once the gift is made. If donors only hear from you when you are asking for money, they will not feel valued or motivated to give again or at a deeper level.

To be effective you must be intentional about stewardship and have a written plan that describes how staff and board members will be involved in taking care of your donors. Start operationalizing your stewardship efforts by developing a really simple stewardship plan for each donor giving level that is prescriptive.

To help our members with creating stewardship plans, INN has created the News Giving Roadmap — a comprehensive program including templates and samples designed to meet our members where they are and take their fundraising to the next level.

Stewardship should be as routine at your organization as planning for events and applying for grants. With the recognition, gratitude and appreciation of your donors, your overall fundraising efforts can become sustainable.