Personal stewardship is key to retaining donors, especially major gifts donors. But what about other donors? ALL donors deserve shows of gratitude and a report on how their gift is changing lives.

While personalized stewardship would be a terrific way to retain donors at all levels, it is not realistic in fast-paced world of nonprofits. So how can we make thoughtful and intentional stewardship possible for donors at every giving amount?

Creating a systematic approach to stewardship could be the answer.

Segment Your Donors

By grouping your donors, you can create segments that are assigned specific stewardship activities. There are many ways to group your donors. We recommend you pick two to three segments to start as your build out your systematic stewardship. Below are a few examples:

  • By Giving Levels ($100 - $249, <$50, $1,000+ etc.)
  • By Affiliation to Organization (volunteer, alum, event attendee, etc.)
  • By Gift Designation (program-specific or location-specific support)
  • By Response to Appeal (End-of-Year or an urgent need appeal)


Review Your CRM’s Capabilities

Within your CRM, you may be able to set attributes or flags on each record to group your donors into smaller segments. With these attributes in place, you can identify ways to trigger automatic communication to each segment of donors. Depending on the CRM, you may also be able to schedule reminders for specific activities and for team members. This systematizes your stewardship and helps to make sure that certain donor segments don’t get neglected.


Build a Grid and Calendar of Stewardship Activities

Plan your stewardship activities for each segment of donors. There are two main types of stewardship activities to consider: gratitude/appreciation and reporting.

A baseline gratitude activity for every donor should include a thank you letter that goes beyond the gift receipt delivered for tax purposes. Best practice indicates this letter should go out within 48 hours of receiving the gift and should include an impact story if possible. Solidifying the thank you letter process with a personalized salutation may be your first big step in creating systematic stewardship. What other ways can you show your appreciation?

  • Welcome card for first-time donors
  • Thank You video from CEO or Board Member
  • Valentine’s Day Post Card
  • Host a Gratitude Day or Week

When it comes to reporting, consider what tactics you already use, like your annual report or monthly newsletter. While it may be cost-prohibitive to mail those pieces to all your donors, could you email them or put links on social media. This is a profound way for donors to connect their gift to the real-life impact it is having. How else could you show their donor impact of their gift?

  • Email newsletter with customized welcome
  • Host an Open House with Mission Moment speaker
  • Create simple videos with testimonials from grateful beneficiaries to email, place on your website and/or use in your social media.


Recruit Others to Help

Beyond your fundraising staff, who else can help to shower donors with appreciation? Board members and volunteers can play an impactful role when it comes to stewardship. Some organizations create a stewardship committee where all they do is think of ways to say thank you to donors. Stewardship is also another way board members can start to participate in philanthropy before they are ready to ask for a gift. You could host a quarterly or annual “Thank-A-Thon” where board members and volunteers make calls to specific segments of donors and say thank you.

Each stewardship activity should have an owner to ensure it happens. Naturally, this will fall mostly to your fundraising staff but also consider if direct service or program staff could help. As with board members, not all staff are comfortable with asking for money. Participating in stewardship activities can further strengthen the culture of philanthropy within your organization.


Stewardship is vital to retaining donors and growing revenue. Systematizing these activities will ensure each donor feels appreciated and understand how they are making a difference.

Start small. Be realistic. Get creative. Show the love.


DBD Summer Stewardship


This month, DBD Group is exploring the idea of "stewardship." When and how do we say thank you to donors?  How might we express gratitude in a heartfelt way that also helps to move a donor relationship forward? And how might we do it in a way that cuts through the noise and makes the mission stand out. Join us as we share ideas from our clients and team. No matter how you decide to do it, don't wait to say thanks!                                                                  

Posted by Lauren DeSimone
Lauren DeSimone

Written by Lauren DeSimone

An alum of DBD Group coaching during her YMCA days, Lauren DeSimone, CFRE, focuses on providing excellent support to nonprofit professionals and volunteers looking to grow their mission and help their clients thrive. With over 15 years of varied experience in nonprofit fundraising, Lauren seeks to share her “on the ground” lessons learned and serve as a sounding board for nonprofits as they overcome today’s philanthropic obstacles.

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