Donor-Love-Graphic-This month, the Donor By Design Team has love and appreciation on our minds… specifically how we “love up” our donors. Today’s topic: seven secrets to successful stewardship!

    A few years ago I visited a friend who happened to be serving as the Chief Development Officer for a large arts organization. Before going out to lunch that day, we purchased fresh flowers and delivered them to the home of one of his organization’s major donors.

    Somehow earlier that day, my friend found out that this particular donor and his wife would be having unexpected guests visit over the weekend. At the spur of the moment, they decided to host a brunch at their home for their surprise guests and twelve of their mutual friends the very next day. As soon as my friend learned about the situation, he decided to personally deliver a huge bouquet of the wife’s favorite flowers to decorate their table.

    Of course, this couple could have easily called a florist and had flowers delivered at the last minute. But the unexpected and extremely thoughtful gesture extended by my friend took them by surprise and delighted them immensely.

    Over the years, I’ve heard many similar stories about nonprofit leaders who, like my friend, excelled at showering their donors with love. To me it seems that these “super stewards” always seem to know just the right thing to say or do at the perfect time and in the ideal situation that makes their donors feel treasured, valued and vital to the organizations they support.

    Because I want to be more like those nonprofit leaders who excel at demonstrating their love for their donors, I did an unscientific study to find out what makes them tick. What I learned about them is summed up below as the “Seven Secrets of Successful Stewards.”

    1. Curious – Successful stewards ask questions and listen for cues about what donors like and how they prefer to be recognized. They find out if they have collections, unique interests and/or special hobbies.
    2. Networkers – They draft the donor’s friends and family members as well as other staff members and volunteers to help them stay informed of significant events and distinctive preferences.
    3. Planners – People who are great at saying thanks make sure to adequately budget and plan for the expected and spontaneous opportunities to recognize and thank donors.
    4. Doers – When they have an idea they act on it. They take action without second-guessing their idea or putting it off for another or more convenient time.
    5. Recorders – Realizing that it would be impossible to keep all the distinct information for each of their donors in their heads, great stewards devise systems of recording information that works for them. That system may mean maximizing the use of their donor software, relying on a detail-oriented staff member, or keeping a robust index card file.
    6. Practical – They know that it isn’t the cost of the gifts or extravagance of the recognition that matters to donors. Successful stewards realize that it’s more about taking the time and making the effort to get to know the individual well enough to surprise and delight them.
    7. Grateful – More than anything they are genuinely grateful individuals who appreciate the generosity and support of others from the bottom of their heart.

    What are your secrets for successful stewardship? Share in the comments below.


    Posted by Michele Goodrich
    Michele Goodrich

    Written by Michele Goodrich

    Since joining the Donor By Design team in 2010, Michele Goodrich has provided resource development counsel to youth-focused, arts and cultural, health-related and educational nonprofit organizations throughout the country. Her extensive and diverse experience in nonprofit leadership positions makes it possible for her to tailor her approach to each nonprofit client’s set of circumstances as well as its unique culture and distinct strengths.

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