From Donor Stewardship to Donor Experiences

How many times have you or your colleagues talked about the difficulty in making time for donor stewardship? After all of our work to find prospects and secure donations, it can become an afterthought to steward those donors we already have.

But how would it change our donors’ relationships with our organizations if we stopped thinking about stewardship as a function we have to remember to do after a gift is made, and instead as a thread that runs through the overall donor experience each of us is responsible for creating?

That donor experience is the responsibility of each of us who benefit from their generosity. Organizational leadership, faculty, physicians, program staff…a truly meaningful donor relationship cannot be the responsibility of the donor relations or development officer alone. With each additional connection at an organization, our donors’ relationships with us deepen.

What does this kind of experience-building look like?

  • Sharing stories of impact about our organization with donors and prospects regularly, rather than just 12 months after a significant gift is made. And those stories should not always come from development staff. Personal accounts from those teaching students, serving clients in need, treating patients, etc., carry the most weight.
  • Remember and acknowledging key milestones in donors’ lives in a personal way, rather than simply having an impersonal, rote birthday card sent.
  • Thinking about how we honor relationships rather than gifts – valuing loyal giving in addition to large giving.
  • Staffing internal leadership to engage with donors and expand those donors’ relationships with our organizations.

If we put the donor experience first, we embrace a more holistic, creative, and personalized approach … and are ultimately more successful in inspiring the generosity and loyalty we seek daily.

Take a moment to imagine your donors feeling deeply connected with, and valued by, your organization. Imagine that those donors know and trust multiple representatives, and have developed a strong buy-in to your vision.

Now imagine what you and those donors can accomplish together, through philanthropy, in pursuit of that vision.

Isn’t that worth the effort?

Though they’re familiar, Maya Angelou’s famous words are also apt here: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

If you have not discussed these concepts across your organization, I encourage you to do so. We all have a hand in creating and supporting a true donor experience.

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