Donor Stewardship: Sage Advice from Nana

We’ve been talking about donor communications and overall best practices as it relates to growing your donor base.  Sending a Thank You note to donors was one of those and it got me to thinking about my Nana.  When Nana gave me a present it was expected to send a Thank You note and not just when you got around to it, preferably within two-weeks of receiving your gift.   Let’s just say I learned to be diligent on getting that note in the mail.

A Sage is one who is wise through reflection and experience.  I always knew grandma was wise and had more to offer than just fresh-baked cookies. Let’s apply some of her life lessons to donor stewardship.

 #1 Always Send a Thank You Note

(You didn’t see that one coming did you?)

When you give someone a gift and they acknowledge it how does that make you feel?  What about when they don’t?  A sincere thank you is a must for donor retention and cultivation.  When parting with their hard-earned time or money it’s important to donors that their sacrifice is appreciated.  Make sure they know and feel how their gift impacted your mission. Based on the size of the donation, or the size of your organization, this could be an automated response from your online donation software, a personalized email/email blast, or even a hand-written thank you note.  I think you know which one Nana would vote for; however, all of the above are perfectly acceptable methods.  The important thing is your thanks is timely (best practice is within 48 hours of receiving the gift) and sincere.

#2: Treat People the Way You Want to Be Treated

This really sums up successful donor cultivation.  It can be easy to neglect a certain segment of your donor base in favor of recognizing your biggest givers (mind you, we are in no way are suggesting you should dial back your recognition of your major donors).  It’s important to make sure that all donors feel appreciated and valued.  No matter the donation size, donors want to know their gift made an impact. A $10 gift may not seem like much but these add up and often times these little donations reflect real sacrifice. Balancing your time is important, but never forget that each donation isn’t just a number but a person, one who cares about the same things you do.  Nana always said, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”  Point: Nana.

#3: Never Underestimate the Power of Food

“Have you eaten?”  “Did you get enough to eat?” “Can I make you sandwich?”  Nana was always trying to feed me.  I’m sure you can think of some favorite foods or dishes you grandmother or a family member makes.  Those dishes that “call your name,” make you smile, and feel appreciated.  While donors may not be at your next family gathering, food is never a bad move.  Whether it’s a batch of cookies or a full-blown banquet – nothing says “we love and appreciate you” like tasty calories!

#4: It’s All About the Love

Fact: Donors choose to give to organizations where they have a personal relationship with those connected to the organization.  Did you know that only about a third of donors research organizations prior to giving to them? Keep your donors happy and coming back by building relationships and establishing trust.  Relationships benefit from touch.  Do you know that it takes an average of 7 touches before someone is inspired to give?  Make sure relationship and communication does not become routine.  Find new ways to say “Thank You!” “Check out What You Made Happen” and “We appreciate You.”

Relationships also thrive in transparency and trust.  Donors want to be assured that their funds are being used to benefit the mission of the organization, not just the overhead and administrative costs. Demonstrate how you are being good stewards of their gifts. Share your financials and success stories so they are confident that the work is being done. Nana would say, “Honey, I love you so much.”  While you’d probably say, “We Love Our Donors So Much!” or “Check out our Overhead Ratio!” however you communicate your appreciation and love for your donors, the important thing is they know it.  Now get out there – love ‘em up!

 #5: Who’s Your #1 Fan: Nana

While Nana would never brag about herself, did you know that Baby Boomers and older women gave 2.5 times the amount given by men?  Also 90% of all family budgets are controlled by women. That’s worth taking notice of.  Make time to connect with this important demographic, let them know you see them and value what they do for your organization.  Your appreciation of their efforts will translate into retained financial support and increased word-of-mouth advertisement.  Nana was my biggest fan and those around her knew it, too.  Women are great about spreading the word around – that’s good thing for you.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and show your donors some love.  Nana would be proud of you and you’d probably get a sandwich and a hug out of it, too.  Not too shabby.