4 Ways to Prioritize Stewardship


Many fundraising professionals lament how little time they spend on stewardship. Maybe this is you, too? Often a lot of time is spent cultivating and soliciting new donors with much less time devoted to caring for the ones we already have. 

But, the abysmal donor retention rates many nonprofits experience are an indication that more time could be spent on thanking and stewarding donors. After all, stewardship is a key step in the fundraising cycle. Keeping your current donors is less expensive, more effective, and takes less time than recruiting brand new donors to your cause—all good for your mission!

To help you carve out time in your busy schedule to properly steward and retain your existing donors, check out these 4 tips:

1. Schedule Time Each Week 

Block out chunks of time on your calendar for stewardship activities. Mark these times as unavailable on your calendar so internal meetings cannot creep in. Maybe set aside one afternoon each week outside the office for stewardship work – leave your office at 1:00 pm and don’t come back!

2. Build Your Team

Now that you have stewardship on your calendar, put it on the radar of others as well. Work on building a culture of stewardship at your organization. Get board members, volunteers, your executive director and other staff involved in recognizing and thanking donors throughout the year. Saying thank you – in person, on the phone, or in a handwritten note – is one of the best ways for new volunteers and staff to help out with fundraising. It’s easy, rewarding, AND fun!

3. Take Stewardship Offsite

Getting out of the office is refreshing and fosters creativity. I’m a big fan of walking meetings – simply walk around the block with a colleague or two to brainstorm ideas for a donor recognition event or other stewardship activity. 

Other ideas to get offsite? Head to a coffee shop with a stack of thank-you letters to give yourself time and brain space to add thoughtful personal notes. Or work from home one morning and knock out 30 thank-you calls to donors without being interrupted. 

4. Stay Donor-Centered

Stewardship is building and tending to relationships with donors who have a demonstrated interest in your work. Big picture — if you can keep your fundraising operation donor-centered, stewardship activities will emerge as a natural priority. 

On the flip side, if you get caught up in goal setting, internal meetings, grants management, or the many other non-donor-centered demands on your time, stewardship will begin a slow descent to the bottom of your list.

What are your ideas for keeping stewardship front and center? Please share in the Comments box below!

If you’re looking for specifics on building a stewardship plan for major donors, including sample plans, you’re invited to join me starting January 15 for a focused 5-Week Class, Major Gifts Made Easy. Learn more and register here