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6 Strategies to Amp Up Modern Donor Stewardship

As all good fundraisers know, excellent donor stewardship is one of the keys to fundraising success.

By practicing stewardship, nonprofits make a concerted effort to establish and cultivate relationships with their donors.

This leads to donors feeling more valued and personally invested in the organization, which results in higher donor retention rates, and thus, a much more valuable donor base.

While all nonprofits should understand the importance of excellent stewardship, it isn’t always easy to figure out exactly what that means.

With technology quickly advancing and tech-savvy millennials coming of giving age, it’s only becoming more and more difficult for nonprofits to stay up-to-date on how they should be approaching their donors.

If you’re at a loss, don’t worry. Here we’ll cover a few of our favorite strategies to help you amp up your donor stewardship, including:

  1. Take a personal approach.
  2. Create a section on your website dedicated to stewardship.
  3. Enlist the help of online ambassadors.
  4. Start a text list.
  5. Incorporate traditional communication channels.
  6. Host an event to recognize donors.

By the time we’re done, you’ll have at least a few ideas for how to bring your donor stewardship into the modern age!


1. Take a personal approach.


While once it might have been acceptable to send the same piece of correspondence to your entire donor base year after year, this one-size-fits-all approach is quickly becoming the way of the past.

Instead, organizations are realizing that it’s much more effective to take a personalized approach to donor stewardship.

What does taking a personalized approach mean, exactly? You shouldn’t be approaching your donor relationships as a transaction, but instead as you would any other relationship in life.

That means taking a genuine interest in your donors as individuals and realizing that relationships are about both give and take. You should want to provide your donors with something of value in return for their support, even if it’s simply your attention and recognition (and trust us, that goes a long way!).

Not only do your donors deserve an individualized approach, but your organization will also see better fundraising results because of it.

Think about it: we’re all more inclined to support those who make us feel valued. When your donors know that you care about getting to know them and are paying attention to their preferences, they’ll be much more likely to give and keep giving for longer.

While this all sounds great in theory, you’re probably wondering: how am I supposed to get to know a base of hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of supporters?

Luckily, there are nonprofit donor databases. This type of software, also known as nonprofit CRM, houses all donor data sources in one place so all sources can communicate with each other to give nonprofits deeper insights into their donors.

With a donor database you can track a wide variety of donor data sources, such as:

  • Name and biographical information.
  • Demographics.
  • Households and other relationships.
  • Donation history.
  • Event attendance and volunteer work.
  • Communications.
  • And more!

Many robust nonprofit CRMs will also allow organizations to create customized notes and fields to track information that’s uniquely relevant to their organization.

While you won’t be able to get to know all of your donors to the extent you’d like, using a donor database can certainly help your organization get to know them as well as possible.

With so much information on your side, you’ll be better able to target your donors and plan out the personalized outreach strategies crucial to excellent stewardship.

The takeaway: Taking a personal approach to donor stewardship leads to longer-lasting and more valuable donor relationships. Enlist the help of a donor database to better get to know your donors and approach them individually.

Bonus: Considering buying a donor database? Check out Neon’s article on the questions you should ask before purchasing.


2. Create a section on your website dedicated to donor stewardship.


Chances are, your nonprofit is already using your website to process donations.

So why not use it to recognize those who are so generously giving those donations, as well?

Your website is the digital face for your brand and donor stewardship will be a huge component of your fundraising. That’s why your organization should consider creating a section on your website dedicated entirely to donor stewardship.

Your stewardship section can be a just a page or it can be an entire series of pages. All that matters is that it’s donor-centric.

For example, you could:

  • Share the results of certain campaigns or projects.
  • Highlight the contributions of donors or volunteers who have gone above and beyond in helping you further your cause.
  • Tell your organization’s stories, specifically how donors have helped you achieve certain milestones.
  • Include information about your membership program or break down giving levels to show donors the benefits they can receive when they give different amounts.
  • Offer engagement opportunities with your organization beyond just donating, such as volunteer work.

Not only will including a stewardship section on your website ensure that your current donors are recognized and feel important, but it will also help new donors envision how their support can help your organization make a world of difference.

Need a little help with your website? Check out Neon’s Web Studio!

The takeaway: Your website is a huge part of your organization’s online presence. Let present and future donors know exactly how much their support means by dedicating a section on your website to stewardship.


3. Enlist the help of online ambassadors.


With almost 80% of adults now on social media, your nonprofit likely already has a social media strategy in place.

And while your current and potential donors enjoy hearing directly from your organization, you’re probably still looking for ways to expand your social media reach and better engage your donors.

If you’re looking to amp up your social media stewardship, your organization should consider recruiting the help of some online ambassadors.

Online ambassadors will be your organization’s digital cheerleaders. They’ll share posts about your organization to their networks to expose friends, peers, and colleagues to all of the amazing work you do in hopes of getting them interested in your cause.

If you’re in need of some social media ambassadors, look no further than your donor base.

If you have long term supporters who are active on social media, you can request that they post something positive about your organization once every month or so. You might also consider recruiting the help of some of your board members, too.

Hearing about the amazing work your organization does directly from someone they know can be more compelling to potential donors than if they heard about it from your organization. The trust factor alone can make new donors feel much more confident about supporting your cause.

Not only is using online ambassadors an excellent way to expand your supporter base, but this strategy is also another opportunity for you to engage your existing donors, too.

It’s a win for stewardship all around!

The takeaway: Enlisting the help of social media ambassadors can help you win new donors and connect with current ones.


4. Start a text list.


A huge component of stewardship is good communication. While half of that equation is simply keeping in touch, the other half is meeting donors where they’d like to be contacted.

But with the face of modern communication evolving so rapidly, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly how your donors would like to hear from you.

While communication preferences will vary from base to base and donor to donor, we can still give you one hint: texting.

According to a Pew Research Center Study, about 85% of adults own smartphones and 97% of  those adults use their phone’s native texting application on a daily basis.

If that doesn’t convince you of the prevalence of texting, just look around anytime you’re out and about. How many people are using their phones?

While once it might have been unheard of to contact donors through text message, more and more nonprofits are now experimenting with this medium as a stewardship strategy.

So, how is it done?

There are many text marketing services that allow nonprofits to send out mass text communications to their donor base. Think of it like your email list, only mobile!

In order to receive texts from your organization, donors will first have to give their explicit permission to be contacted by subscribing to your list. That way, only those who really want to hear from your organization through this medium will be contacted.

The ways you can contact donors through text are practically endless.

One of the advantages of text communication over email is that it has the potential to be more interactive, so get creative to think of ways you can actively engage your donors. Polls, quizzes, and other games can be an excellent way to keep in contact while immersing donors in your cause.

The takeaway: One of the most important parts of stewardship is frequent and relevant communication. Establishing a text list will allow you meet donors where they want to be, so you can always keep in touch.


5. Incorporate traditional communication channels.


When thinking about modern stewardship, it can be all-too-easy to forget about more traditional communication methods like phone calls and handwritten letters.

But modern donor stewardship doesn’t mean that your organization must be limited to more contemporary forms of communication. In fact, practicing modern donor stewardship entails taking a multi-channel approach.

In other words, while you should definitely be using mediums like text and email to communicate with your donors, your organization should also be incorporating traditional communication channels, too.

Why, you might ask? Well, there are a few good reasons:

  1. More traditional communication channels generally require more time and effort than modern ones. Just imagine how special your donors will feel when they see that you took the time to hand write and mail them a thank-you letter!
  2. Traditional communication methods are usually more personal. Direct phone calls and handwritten letters can help donors put a face to your organization, which can make them feel more connected to and personally invested in you.
  3. Your donors will have different communication preferences. By communicating with donors through multiple channels, you’ll be more likely to contact each donor in the manner they prefer.

In short, calling your donors on the phone or mailing them a letter can really help your organization go the extra mile when it comes to building donor relationships.

Doing so might take a little extra time, money, and effort, but when you see how happy and loyal your donors are, you’ll have no doubt that it was worth it!

The takeaway: Incorporating traditional communications—like phone calls and direct mail—into your outreach strategy will make your donors feel valued, help your organization establish more personal relationships, and ensure you always stay relevant.


6. Host an event to recognize donors.


What’s the very best way to get to know your donors? By interacting with them in person, of course!

If your organization really wants to amp up your modern donor stewardship, you should consider hosting a donor recognition event.

The sole purpose of a donor recognition event will be to—you guessed it—pay recognition to your donors.

It doesn’t matter which type of event you choose to host; all that matters is that it’s something that will appeal to your supporters and make them feel appreciated for all of their support.

Hosting a donor recognition event is an excellent way to both express your gratitude and, furthermore, put it into practice. Saying thanks is a huge part of the stewardship process, and when your donors feel that their contributions are genuinely appreciated, they’ll be much more likely to keep giving to your organization for longer.

Additionally, putting on an event will allow your organization to begin establishing a face-to-face rapport with donors.

By interacting with donors in person, you can get to know them even better to keep honing your stewardship strategies. Plus, your donors will feel more personally connected to your organization, which results in more giving.

When donors have both a face and a fun experience to associate with your organization, they’ll keep supporting you for years to come!

The takeaway: Express your thanks by holding a donor appreciation event. By interacting with your donors in person, you can get to know them even better, so your organization can practice improved stewardship down the line.

Bonus: Need help planning your event? Check out Booster’s guide!



While modern donor stewardship methods might be changing quickly, your donors will always remain the same.

No matter how you’re interacting with them, whether it be through the newest channel or the most tried and true, if they feel personally valued, your donors will keep coming back year after year.

Click here to learn more about how NeonCRM can help your organization amp up its stewardship!

See NeonCRM's post about donor fraud.

Blog Post By: Jeff Gordy of NeonCRM

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