Pro Tip | Leading with stewardship

publication date: Jan 6, 2021

This year, with hope on the horizon, it will still be a long winter. This adds up to perfect conditions for building and sustaining relationships with your donors over the next several months. This will help you recover from downturns in fundraising in 2020 as well as build up more for 2021. Even if you fundraising went well last year, stewardship is still a great way to connect with donors.  In addition, it is worth noting that this pandemic has led to greater introspection and many are thinking more about their lives and their life's values. Stewardship is a great place to start.

Major donors

I am consistently hearing from those who work with high net worth individuals that many of the activities they usually enjoy - travel, performing arts, socializing are closed or reduced. In addition, the stock market is continuing to perform well. As a result, these folks have more time on their hands and may have more disposable income.

That combination of time on their hands, more income, and new or renewed interests in the community make this a perfect time to connect with your donors. Even if you have been out of touch, people have time and interest. This is a great moment to reach out and book individual Zoom meetings. The people who say "yes" are those who have more of an interest in your work.

Intermediate donors

Intermediate donors are often the forgotten philanthropists of any charity but they can be a powerful, regular set of supporters. Through donor research, you may discover people who are capable of being major donors. Similar to major donors, a series of Zoom stewardship or cultivation calls this winter can set the stage for a set of strong asks in the late spring or early summer. If this is a large group for your charity or they are far apart geographically, having a group online update or other session can be a great way to connect.

Annual donors

Annual donors are the backbone of many organizations. In addition to their own strengths, they also are a strong group for planned gifts. With the national roll-out of CAGP's WillPower program coming this year, getting in closer touch with this group now can help you with both annual fund and possible bequests down the road. 

It may not make sense to have a Zoom call for individual annual fund donors but inviting them in manageable groups to an update session over Zoom where they can ask questions and interact is a great next step.

I have a colleague who always says - sometimes the fastest way is to go slow. By starting with stewardship now, you will be setting the stage for growth, or recovering lost ground, in 2021. While 2020 was a terrible year, use it as a chance to build back a stronger fundraising program for your organization.

Ann Rosenfield led with stewardship in 2020 and, while she lost donors, she made budget. This article is the core of her 2021 plan.

Cover photo by JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash


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