It's Never Too Late to Steward a Donor
All fundraisers know that the prompt and timely stewardship of a gift is best practice. But in reality, we’ve all seen situations where there’s been a lapse in stewardship. Which begs the question: is it ever too late to steward a gift?
We’re not talking about a tax receipt, for which there is a time that’s too late. We’re talking about a personal acknowledgement for a gift.
The answer is no. It’s never too late to steward a gift, even though it’s far from ideal.
In a very simple view, the way I think of stewardship goes back to my Great Aunt Mary. Mary was always thoughtful about birthday cards (filled with some dough!), sending trinkets from vacation, and even knitting mittens for her great nieces and nephews. But growing up, my sister and I noticed that if one of us didn’t follow up with a thank you, that next piece of mail from Great Aunt Mary might not be as thoughtful, or may not exist at all.
Which brings me to the red mittens she knitted for me. I was a child and not exactly thrilled with the gift. I admit it – I did not send a thank you note! However, at some point late that winter, I found myself ice skating with my family, and you can be sure that one of my parents had their camera out. I happened to be wearing those red mittens. When we received the pictures back, my mother and I saw the picture of me in the red mittens and immediately thought about sending it along to Mary. Although the thank you came very late – let me tell you – Mary was thrilled to see her gift was used. And guess what, I think I became her favorite niece after that point!
I’ve spoken with clients who have seen systematic lapses in stewardship. One who uncovered that none of her donors had been stewarded in three years. She knew it was time to course correct. When she started in on that outreach, she was a bit apprehensive about what donors would say, but the response was astonishing. Not only were donors excited to be personally recognized, but many gave – without any ask in the outreach.
If you find yourself in a situation where there’s been a lapse in donor stewardship, here are some tips to make sure your response is similar:
- Your message should be one of grateful appreciation.
- Do not include an ask in the outreach (that can come later).
- Don’t go over excuses for why they didn’t hear from your organization sooner. Acknowledge the gap, apologize for the oversight, and move on.
- If you’re new to the organization, it’s worth mentioning that you noticed they haven’t been properly thanked for their gift yet.
- It’s never too late!
If you’d like to learn more about how artificial intelligence can empower your organization to have a culture of philanthropy, personally reach new donors, and inspire giving at scale, connect with Gravyty today.
This post comes from the Gravyty Fundraising Academy, a series that examines how fundraisers adapt and strategize to evolve what's possible through philanthropy.
Your guide for the Gravyty Fundraising Academy is VP of Customer Success, Lisa Alvezi. Lisa has worked with countless fundraisers across Higher Education, Health Care, and Nonprofit organizations to transform fundraising. As a former frontline fundraiser herself, her goal is to help you see better results from your fundraising efforts.