5 easy-to-implement tips for donor stewardship

publication date: Mar 11, 2013
author/source: Alison Keys

We all know that we should practice good donor stewardship. Yet  this important activity is all too often pushed to the back burner because it doesn’t produce immediate, obvious revenue. Believe me, if you take good care of your donors, the dollars will keep coming!Alison Keys

Here are five easy-to-implement tips to help you retain more donors through excellent stewardship activities.

1)  Call to thank your donors!!

Whether you ask your trusted tele-fundraising partner to thank your donors or have your Board, staff and volunteers do it, this needs to be done!

"A simple, inexpensive ‘thank you’ call will produce a 30% ROI" according to Chuck Longfield, Founder of Target Analytics and Chief Scientist at Blackbaud.

These are the fun and rewarding calls to make!  When we’ve had the opportunity to thank donors they appreciate the call so much that they end up thanking us for thanking them!

2)  Resolve donor complaints or issues immediately

Do you cringe when a donor calls with a complaint? We so often hear, especially through our phone campaigns, that a donor had an issue and no-one would call back or even acknowledge the donor’s contact. This creates an unnecessary bad feeling.

Follow these important steps for donor complaint resolution and you won’t go wrong:

  • Listen closely to the donor. Let them vent if needed.  Answer their question, and explain why it may have happened (whatever “it” is).
  • Repeat the issue to make sure you understand the situation completely.
  • Establish a plan to resolve the issue.
  • Explain to the donor the steps you’ll take.
  • Ask the donor to agree with your plan.
  • Repeat what you’ll do to resolve the issue.
  • Most importantly, follow through with what you said you’d do.
  • Call, write or e-mail the donor to report the result.
  • If something goes wrong or it’s going to take longer than you thought, give the donor an update.
  • Work to resolve the issue immediately – don’t bury it in your inbox.

Following these steps really builds trust and credibility for your organization. If you’ve handled the matter promptly and efficiently, your donor will be delighted. Remember, good customer service is hard to find these days, so if you can do it – and do it better than anyone else – you will win your donors’ hearts time and again!

3)  Thank, acknowledge, and receipt your donors right away

You’ve heard this one a few times, I’m sure, but it bears repeating. We’ve always had a policy of a 48-hour turn-around from the time the donation is received to when the acknowledgement package is mailed. I believe that being on top of these details leaves your donors with the impression that your entire organization is efficient. First impressions are important, especially with new donors. Promptly handling their first gift will make them feel more confident that they made the right choice in supporting you.

4)  Report back to your donors.

Let them know how their donation helped you accomplish your goal or at least get closer to your goal.

5)  Honor your donors’ wishes faithfully!

If they don’t want to receive so much mail or don’t want to receive fundraising calls, for example, flag their records accordingly. Communicate with them how and when they want you to.

Most donors support multiple organizations. Practicing good donor stewardship will put you miles above your competition – earning you respect, boosting your retention rates, and raising your average gifts.

Alison Keys, president of Keys Direct Marketing and Communications, is recognized as a direct marketing strategist and communications expert. For nearly two decades, Keys Direct has provided high quality tele-fundraising, direct mail, e-marketing and consulting services to nonprofits. Alison serves as a mentor to Keys Direct staff as well as a hands-on partner with the agency’s clients.

She’s the mother of two “amazing” teen-agers who have been encouraged from an early age to be actively involved in the causes that are close to their hearts.

Contact Alison by email.

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