By Todd Cohen
While stewardship is considered a “less glamorous backroom activity,” it is critical to fundraising because it “creates an opportunity to communicate with donors about the impact of their gifts and provides inspiration for their continued support,” says Randy Holgate, vice president for development and alumni relations at the University of Chicago.
Stewardship, she says, begins with a “clear understanding between the donor and organization about what the gift is for,” clarifying for both sides, in writing, expectations about how the gift will be used.
Armed with a six-volume history that documents the purpose and financial history of each endowment at the school, the development office provides reports to donors each year on recipients of their funds, and on the funds’ financial performance.
The school also hosts annual events on campus for its most important annual-fund supporters and endowment donors to meet faculty members and students, and for scholarship students to spend a day writing thank-you letters to donors of their funds.
“Our data shows that our most generous donors are people who give regularly and began giving at lower levels,” Holgate said.
Michael Rierson, vice president for university advancement at the University of South Florida in Tampa, said cultivating donors for the long-term lies at the heart of successful fundraising, and is rooted in clear agreements with donors about how gifts will be used, rigorous reporting to donors on how gifts actually are used, and continuing efforts to involve donors in the organization.
“Your best new donor,” he said, “is your existing donor.”
Other stories in the series: