I’m not rich, but I recently added up my giving to my favorite local charity. The amount over the last 20 years astounded me. More recently, I made a capital pledge to this charity. Unfortunately, two years later, I have no idea how my money is being used. I’m not aware of their campaign progress. I do not know if the projects are on time or on budget. But I do get an invoice (which resembles a hospital bill) every February and then a receipt letter letting me know the IRS will accept this letter allowing me to legally deduct my gift from my taxes.

    I wish this was unusual, but it is not. I surveyed friends and colleagues and it is amazingly common. But guess what? Everyone I asked also talked about one charity that did amazing stewardship of their gift. And, in every instance, that charity seemed to be their favorite. What is the secret?

    No secret. It’s simple. Each of those organizations has a stewardship plan and they work it like a program with identified tasks, milestones, and specific roles and responsibilities.

    They also split their donors into different levels – usually three or four. Donors are ranked by gift size and also tenure of giving. Second, they treat all their donors well, but make sure their “Big D” donors are treated very well*. Those donors receive:

    • timely information
    • real interaction with the recipients of their generosity
    • personal one-on-one recognition

    Sure their name is likely in the annual report or the donor wall, but the real key is one-on-one recognition.

    So for those eager to get started, here is a link to a DBD resource that can help you in designing your stewardship plan. (And you can see a sample, completed plan here.)

    Turn your communications into stewardship opportunities and leave invoices to the IRS and insurance companies.


    *Great example: I had one client that always hand-delivered their pledge invoices to “Big D” donors. “If I am billing someone for $50,000 a year, do I really want to trust a 49-cent postage stamp?” he said. In truth, he updated that donor on progress with personal one-on-one thanks during those visits. Brilliant!


    Posted by Danny Maier
    Danny Maier

    Written by Danny Maier

    Dan Maier offers fundraising counsel and strategic management for local and national nonprofits, YMCAs, camps, medical and social service organizations. He offers invaluable support to clients and their volunteer leadership as they look to enhance their development campaigns, prepare for crisis communications, strengthen their boards and more.

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