Donor Stewardship: Motivate Donors to Stay & Support

Building meaningful and strong relationships with your supporters is the key to your nonprofit's long-term success and growth. Donor stewardship can help you achieve this, but it is important to understand what it means and what steps you can take to steward donors. This article will help you get started and provide you with bonus resources!

7 minutes read
Donor Stewardship: Motivate Donors to Stay & Support

What is the #1 most important resource for nonprofits? Donors, of course!

Without donors, your organization wouldn’t be able to do the important, mission-driven work that it does. That’s why it’s surprising that some nonprofits still don’t have a solid donor stewardship plan or use donor management software to develop long-lasting relationships with donors.

If you’re new to donor stewardship or if you simply want to revamp your donor stewardship plan, you’re in luck! In this article, we’ll walk through 6 great steps you can take to strengthen your stewardship strategy, in addition to other important points to consider.

First, let’s answer an important question – what is donor stewardship?

What is Donor Stewardship?

Donor stewardship is the act of building meaningful relationships with your donors to encourage more donations in the future.

“Act” is the important word, there – stewarding donors requires a series of ongoing actions to help maintain and strengthen relationships.

A solid donor stewardship plan will include regular and varied outreach, personalized communications, and special attention. The hope is that the donor will feel valued by your organization – which, by the way, should be the case for all of your donors – and not like they’re being pestered. The goal is that they’ll keep giving to support your work.

The best way to manage donor stewardship is with a solid donor management tool, like Donorbox Donor Management. Donorbox helps you acknowledge donors with customized donation receipts, keep track of their donations and important moments like donation anniversaries, and segment donor and donation data so you can personalized communications. Plus, you get to integrate with leading CRM tools like Salesforce NPSP, Blackbaud RE NXT, HubSpot, etc. to more effectively utilize donor data.

donorbox donor management

Donor Stewardship and Donor Cultivation – Are They the Same?

These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but donor stewardship and cultivation are two different things.

1. Donor stewardship

Donor stewardship is all about interaction with donors that doesn’t include an ask for another donation. This includes things like donor appreciation events, newsletters, and donor acknowledgments. In other words, this is communication that should help build and solidify the relationship.

2. Donor cultivation

On the other hand, donor cultivation is about making the ask. Donor cultivation can happen with people who haven’t given yet, with donors who you’re hoping will give again, and with lapsed donors. This type of communication shows the value of your nonprofit while also typically including a call to action.

6 Steps to a Donor Stewardship Plan that Works

Here are 6 actionable steps your nonprofit can take to improve your donor stewardship plan.

1. Keep strong records

Your first step toward a donor stewardship plan is to have solid records for all your donors.

Donor records should include any basic biographical information you have, like name, email, mailing address, birthday, and company/occupation.

It should also include their giving history. How much they gave, when, the method of giving (online donor, in-person, or cash donor), and to which campaign they gave to are all part of a solid record. Plus, it can help you decide which type of donor someone is.

Donorbox helps you collect all that information and store it in one easy-to-access place. Whether the donor gave through your online form or used the Donorbox Live™ Kiosk to give in person at your location or events, every piece of data gets stored in the Donorbox database. You can also manually enter offline donors and any additional information, so your donor records are as robust as possible. Donorbox also makes it easy to edit your donor profiles.

Here’s what editing a donor profile on Donorbox looks like –

updating donor profiles on donorbox

Get Started with Donorbox

2. Send a timely acknowledgment

Anytime you receive a donation, it’s vital to send an acknowledgment as soon as possible. This is a key part of the donor engagement cycle.

This thank-you letter should include your heartfelt gratitude, along with basics about the donation like the amount, any special designations, etc. You should also go ahead and send a year-end tax receipt to your donors to make tax filing easy on their end.

With Donorbox, you can completely customize the automatic acknowledgment (or donation receipt) that donors receive after making their gifts. This means that instead of getting a form letter, they’ll get a customized letter that better reflects your organization. This acknowledgment also includes all details of their donation.

Here’s what the receipt email editor looks like on Donorbox –

donation receipt email editor on donorbox

Since this is often one of the first steps for donor stewardship, it’s so important to get it right! Check out our Guide to Write Thank-You Letters for Donations to help you get started.

There are a ton of ways to thank donors – sending a prompt acknowledgment is just the first step.

3. Meet your top donors in person

Donor meetings are a great step toward stewarding donors.

This meeting can be a casual coffee date where you ask your donor what they like about your organization, why they decided to donate, and what they think your organization can improve on.

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to do this with all of your donors, so choose mainly your major donors – who have made more of an impact on your organization – to meet with. Come up with a mid-level donor strategy to engage your other donors.

Remember to send a donor meeting thank-you note after, too! This will help secure the goodwill you built during your meeting.

4. Send more personalized communication

When it comes to stewardship, personalized connection is key. This is also a great way to reconnect with lapsed donors.

Personalized communication is more than just using someone’s name in an email, although that’s a start! To truly personalize your communication, you’ll want to send segmented emails to appeal to different kinds of donors.

You can segment your email list based on things like age, location, or interests, but you can also segment based on donation level and frequency. Use Donorbox to easily segment your donor data with a variety of helpful filters. It will help you gain insights into their campaign interested, giving frequency, giving abilities, and more.

segmenting donor data on donorbox

Segment Your Donor Data - Sign Up!

Donorbox also integrates with popular email marketing software like MailChimp, ConstantContact, and even Gmail through Zapier. This streamlines your workflow so sending more personalized communication is a breeze!

Pro tip: You should send value-driven content like newsletters, exciting updates, and videos to your donors. Remember, stewardship isn’t about making the ask – it’s about connection!

5. Demonstrate donor impact

Figuring out how to demonstrate the impact of your donors can be really tricky. The best way to do it is to rely on data and storytelling.

  • Data will help show the quantitative value of donor contributions and should include numbers. For example, if donors helped you buy 300 school lunches, that’s a number that definitely demonstrates value!
  • Stories will help show the qualitative value of donor contributions. Fundraising stories should paint a picture of how donor contributions make lives better in your community.

Your annual report or impact report is a great place to include both types of donor impact demonstrations. You should plan on sending this out to your donors during the same month every year, in order to build consistency.

Use Donorbox’s donor management tools to prepare your annual reports by making it easy to pull donation totals for specific campaigns and funds. You can easily access your donation data on Donorbox and add multiple filters for in-depth insights.

donation data management on donorbox

6. Track communications

A very important aspect of your donor stewardship plan should be making sure you aren’t annoying your donors. Being too pesky – and reaching out too often – is a great way to sour a budding donor relationship.

Instead, monitor how often you reach out by tracking your communications with each donor.

This is super easy to do with Donorbox. For each donor record, you can keep logs of communications, including inbound and outbound communications coming from a variety of sources. You can also include a note to avoid repetitive conversations. Here’s what it looks like –

adding communication notes to donor profiles on donorbox

Add & Track Communication Notes on Donorbox!

Donorbox Donor Management – The Best Partner in Your Donor Stewardship Journey

Stewardship is key to creating lasting donor relationships – and Donorbox Donor Management helps you do this every step of the way. We have shown in the above steps how to best utilize Donorbox’s donor management features to steward your donors. But those were only a few.

Here are all the key features of Donorbox Donor Management:

  • Automatically collect and store donor and donation data in the Donorbox database.
  • Donor-friendly giving tools and features such as Recurring Donations, QuickDonate™, Text-to-Give, QR codes, Donorbox Live™ Kiosk, and more.
  • Seamless donor experience – meaning donors can easily log in to their donor accounts on Donorbox and manage their recurring plans, repeat a donation, access their donation receipts, and more.
  • Automated thank-you email with a tax-compliant receipt. The ability to send year-end tax receipts to donors.
  • Triggered alerts for important donor moments such as first-time donations, first giving anniversaries, changes in recurring plans, and more.
  • Donor reporting templates to easily pull reports on new donors, donor overviews, and LYBUNT donors.
  • Manually enter offline donors and donations to keep them all in the same place.
  • The ability to merge duplicate donor records to maintain a clean database.
  • Log and track donor communications so you never pester donors.
  • Pull email lists for personalized communication by applying basic and advanced filters on donor data.
  • Integrate with Salesforce NPSP, Blackbaud RE NXT, HubSpot, Rock RMS, and other leading CRMs for better utilization of donor data.

And more! Want to get started? Just follow our step-by-step guide for the four simple steps. Sign up to start fundraising and managing donors right away.

Sign Up for Donorbox Donor Management

Free Donor Stewardship Checklist for Nonprofits

Donorbox has a free donor stewardship checklist for you, which includes free samples of a donation receipt and a donor acknowledgment. And much more! Click here to download the checklist for free.

Bonus Resource – Intentional Stewardship for Your Donors

Donor stewardship is more than a thank-you; it is an intentional practice of building lasting relationships with your supporters. We have a quick 10-minute podcast discussing that and providing insights, featuring our nonprofit experts Cara Augspurger and Jena Lynch:

Final Thoughts

Our donors are the key to our success, so it’s time to start building better, lasting relationships with them. Donors who are more engaged give way more over their lifetime, and might even consider a planned gift.

Stewardship consists of a series of ongoing actions that all have to do with connecting with your donors. Whether you’re meeting them face-to-face, sending them personalized content they’ll enjoy, or reaching out on their birthday, every little action you take will add up in a big way for your donors.

Donorbox Donor Management is here to make those actions as easy and automated as possible! Our powerful and donor-friendly tools will make giving simple and effective for your organization – and fulfilling for your supporters! Learn about all our features on the website.

Start your donor management glow-up today.

Want more tips and best practices on donor management? Check out our Nonprofit Blog. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to receive a curated list of Donorbox’s best resources in your inbox every month.

Lindsey Baker

Lindsey spent years wearing many hats in the nonprofit world. Whether she was helping arts nonprofits with their messaging and content, planning a fundraising gala, writing an NEA grant proposal, or running a membership program with over 400 members, she learned how to navigate – and appreciate! – the fast-paced world of fundraising. Now, she loves sharing those hard-earned lessons with the Donorbox community.

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