5 Ways to Love Your Donors


Stewardship is a strategic effort to make your donors feel appreciated, important, and informed about how their gifts create impact. Your investment of time will foster future gifts, but remember that as an activity, stewardship is for thanking and communicating – not asking.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day! Five ways to love your donors:

  1. Create (and follow!) a plan. 
    Your plan should be segmented by donor levels (the fact is, some donors deserve greater thanks!) and scalable so you can update it as your capacity grows. Make sure you start small and achievable. If you have the capacity to send every single one of your donors a birthday card, do that! If you have the capacity to make one thank you call every morning, do that! Give yourself some room to learn and grow so you don’t smother your effort.

  2. Call to say thank you! 
    DO IT RIGHT AWAY! Call while you’re still holding the envelope! They’ll love sharing the thrill of that moment with you. If they don’t answer, leave a voicemail. It is truly wonderful to hear a recorded message that expresses thanks. Remember, no asks! This moment is only for gratitude and communication. You’ll be surprised how much a donor will share when all you’re calling for is to thank them. Have a pen ready to note interesting details.

  3. Send them happy mail! 
    Happy mail doesn’t contain a bill, an ask, or any bad news. It’s a card, an update, a quick note – it’s an envelope full of cheerful good news. It comes in a handwritten envelope with a stamp. Trust me. First impressions do matter, and a personalized envelope is such an easy way to make a great first impression for that interaction.

  4. Give them an experience. 
    From your plan, choose a small segment of donors who would enjoy an experience. A meaningful volunteering experience? A tour of your organization? A “listening tour” from your leadership? A small party to watch the debut of a video? Make sure the experience is small or well-managed enough that you’ll have time to connect.

  5. Report the impact of their gift. 
    Tell them what they did! Include images if you can. Be sure to use YOU language: You made this possible! Because of your gift, all the baby seals are safe! Thanks to your generosity, every third grader is fluent in Japanese! Include data, but be mindful that this is not an annual report. Keep it to one page. Aim for their fridge. If your report is on your donor’s fridge, they will think of your organization every day.

It’s important to remember that our tax laws have changed. At a time when fewer people are able to deduct their charitable contributions, the one thing that will make your organization stand out from the pack is the excellence of your stewardship.

My goal in donor stewardship is always to make someone’s day. I want them to feel like superheroes. I want them to feel so good about our conversation, they’ll be inspired to tell a friend in the morning and then mention it again during dinner. Everyone loves to hear that they’re great, and your donors are extra special, right? Give them the warm fuzzies! Tell them how you feel! 

And a lovely perk: the next time they hear about your organization or the next time they send in a gift, they will remember that great feeling… and they’ll want to feel it again.


About Joscelyn Stone

Joscelyn Stone is the Director of Donor Engagement and Stewardship at the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend. She loves good deeds, high fives, cooking with her sweetheart, and her Labrador/Great Dane mix (read: 75 lb. lap dog), Ivy.