Stewardship: Part 1

By Todd Cohen

Tracking donors to Easter Seals Southern California in Santa Ana, Mike Flory noticed an older donor over the years had made 60 to 70 gifts averaging $50 to $100 in response to direct-mail appeals.

So Flory, a consultant to the charity who was its vice president of donor relations, invited the donor to visit an adult day program for people with severe disabilities.

“The donor was so overwhelmed we were providing the service, she immediately called her stock broker and made a $10,000 stock gift,” Flory says, a contribution she has since made every year for seven years.

Personal contact “helps people appreciate how their gifts are making a difference and it makes them feel more comfortable making larger gifts,” Flory says.

Building strong donor relations, a fundraising task known as “stewardship,” is critical but often overlooked or underemphasized, veteran fundraisers and philanthropy experts say.

By investing more time and money in working more closely with donors who already have made gifts, experts say, fundraisers can help ensure that donors give again, give more and eventually make “life-time” gifts.

Stewardship is “the easiest thing to forget and the hardest thing to capitalize on in a development enterprise, particularly those that are squeezed financially,” says Michael Rierson, vice president for university advancement at the University of South Florida in Tampa. “People measure you by how you are putting their generosity to work.”

Other stories in the series:

Part 2: Gap found between what donors want and how charities raise money

Part 3: Personal contact a strategy to boost giving.

Part 4: Engaging donors tied to making their impact personal.

Part 5: Charities engage donors to build their fundraising base.

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