One of the most important pillars of fundraising is stewardship. When high value donors are nurtured, they feel important. They renew their gifts to your agency because they feel valued by your organization.

There are hundreds of charities. How does your agency treat it’s best contributors? What do you do to cultivate your high value donors?

I am reprinting a list of things you can do by Karen Climer from FundRaising Success Magazine, July 01 2008 Issue. Don’t be put off by the date of the article. These are great tips to help any agency develop relationships with their donors. I have also included some 2019 information as well as items from my own experience.

Like it or not, the majority of our major-gifts donors simply are not impressed with the amount of email we can send them. Instead, they want a birthday card, a phone call or a heartfelt thank-you. Renewal gifts are about stewardship.

Nurture your high value donors

  1. Send your donors birthday cards.
  2. For milestone anniversaries, send flowers.
  3. Send holiday cards. If your agency has a preschool or camp, consider using a drawing done by one of the children. Your donors will appreciate it.
  4. Invite them on tours of your facility. Make sure you have someone who benefits from the organization’s work on hand to say thank you.
  5. Consider asking someone who benefits from the organization’s work call donors. While this needs to be monitored, if offers some strong personal connections.
  6. Ask a recipient who benefits from the organization’s work write letters describing how the organization has helped.
  7. Have board members call or write thank-you notes to donors. This deepens connections.
  8. When an article about your organization appears in the local news, send it to donors. Attach a note that says, “With your help we are able to help more students than we ever thought possible. Thank you.”
  9. When you send out your regular newsletter, attach a note that says, “I think you’ll like the photos of the children on Page 6. The new pediatric ward was possible because of your support.”
  10. Ask donors for advice, and let them know of any success as a result of following that advice.

Stay In Touch

  1. Send donors articles that might interest them – even if they have nothing to do with your organization. Sometimes it’s better if they have nothing to do with your organization – that tells donors that you’re interested in them as people and not as checkbooks.
  2. Give donors a direct number to reach you. Nowadays, many high value donors want to contact you on your cell.
  3. Invite high value donors to serve on a committee or on a board.
  4. Send donors artwork created by your clients. I have even seen some non-profits partner with other agencies to create meaningful gifts for high value donors which are sent at Holiday time along with an opportunity for additional giving.
  5. If you work with kids, you can ask donors to chaperone events such as field trips or parties or just come to see the action.
  6. Issue media releases about major gifts. Be sure to check with your donor first before sending out anything about their gift.
  7. Invite donors to all of your events. Not just to your galas and auctions. Invite them to graduations, backstage cast parties, VIP briefings. Make them feel like they’re “in” on things. They will show up at events they’re interested in.
  8. After an event, send donors pictures of themselves with their friends.
  9. Share updates about the fundraising status of projects (include photos and live webcam video of construction, etc.)
  10. Send keepsakes from a major-gift announcement or event – memory books, albums, framed photographs, DVDs.

Keep Them in The Loop

  1. Mail (or email) a newsletter (at least quarterly) and annual report to keep donors informed.
  2. Send your audited financial statements. Nowadays, send can mean providing a link.
  3. Nominate your high value donors for awards.
  4. Ask your donors to read a draft copy of your case statement. Solicit their feedback.
  5. With corporations and foundations, send handwritten notes. Form letters go into your file – handwritten notes get circulated around the office.
  6. Introduce donor to the leaders of the organization, including board members, administrative officials and program staff.
  7. Attach personal messages to your direct mail. Post-it notes get attention and your donors might like the fact that you thought enough of them to take the time to get personal.
  8. Ask your donors to host receptions or gatherings and invite their friends. This is a great way to promote the successes of the organization or the progress of a program.
  9. Ask donor if they have friends or colleagues who’d be interested in your organization so you can grow your list.
  10. Join your donors at concerts, races, games, walks or other events when they extend invitations to do so. When you bond with your donor at informal events out of your agency’s purview, it deepens your relationship,
  11. Have the leaders of the organization periodically call, write personal notes or e-mail prospects after they’ve met, just to keep them informed about the organization.

There are never enough ways to say thank you. You can never say it too often.

  1. The day a check arrives, have someone call the donor and say thank you.
  2. Forget the 48-hour rule. Send your thank-you letters within 24 hours of receiving a gift.
  3. Add a handwritten PS to thank-you letters because people’s eyes are drawn to the PS first.
  4. Personally sign your thank-you letters. Don’t use a computer signature. I also suggest using blue ink to stand out.
  5. Attend your donors’ events, such as office holiday open houses or the new branch ribbon cuttings. If you go to theirs, you expect them to attend your events.
  6. Promptly follow up on their inquiries. High value donors should never wait
  7. If you work for a university or school, send the school newsletter occasionally.
  8. If you want to make an impact, send handwritten notes to people you normally only exchange e-mails with.
  9. Ask your donors to tell you their stories about your cause. As a result, we learn when we listen.
  10. Take out a thank-you ad in the local newspaper.
  11. Bring high value donors along to the airport to pick up celebrities and other special guests for your events.
  12. If the organization is given an award, invite donors to attend the award ceremony.
  13. Send a thank-you note for no reason that says, “I was watching the kids on the playground, and I thought about how you made it happen. Thank you for your support of the youth center.”

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