Don’t let your campaign donors become one-time donors! A good stewardship plan can make sure that doesn’t happen. Stewardship — following up after a gift — will help ensure that your campaign donors give again and again for years to come.

Stewardship is more than simply saying thank you. Stewardship is everything that happens after a donor makes a gift and includes:

  • Expressing gratitude
  • Donor recognition
  • Ensuring donors know the impact they made through their philanthropy

To ensure you follow up and follow through with donors after they make a gift, you’ll need a plan. The plan should include what needs to happen, who will do it and when it will be done.

8 Questions to Ask BEFORE Making Your Stewardship Plan

There are a number of questions you should consider before creating your stewardship plan.

  1. What will happen immediately after a gift is made?
    Will donors receive a call from a board member? A note from the executive director? An automatically generated email? It will likely depend on the size of the gift and how the gift was made.
  2. What will happen at various points or each stage of the campaign?
    Will donors be notified as you progress? For example, donors during the quiet phase are usually recognized at the kick-off to the public phase.
  3. Which donors will receive calls from the executive director or a board member?
    How many personal calls can members of your senior leadership team manage well? Does it make sense to call every donor under $100? What about under $1,000? There will likely need to be dollar level cut-offs for various gift sizes.
  4. Who will be responsible for donor recognition?
    Who on your team will specifically be responsible for what aspects of your stewardship plan? And how will they be held accountable?
  5. How will you use technology as part of donor recognition?
    Will you send video thank you’s? Will you use other apps, platforms, or services to help?
  6. When will you tell donors what impact they made?
    How will you communicate that news? The larger the gift, the more specific, detailed, and personal your follow up should be.
  7. How will you specifically recognize donors?
    Is there any place where all donors of any gift size, to the campaign, will be recognized? A donor-wall in your lobby or on your website? Something else?
  8. What will happen after pledge payments are received?
    Is there acknowledgement of each payment?

How to Create Your Stewardship Plan

So how exactly should you go about setting up your stewardship plan? We can offer some tips.

Start with your gift range chart.

Your gift range chart is the chart that shows how many gifts at each level you will need to have for a successful campaign. You can use that as a guide to help you figure out how you can steward your donors at different levels of giving.

As you develop your stewardship plan, remember that you won’t acknowledge and recognize all donors in the same ways.

You will recognize bigger donors in different ways than smaller donors. And long-time, loyal donors should be acknowledged for their loyalty and differently than first-time donors. You should recognize hard-working volunteers as well.

The gift range chart will also help determine naming opportunities, if you are planning to have plaques on rooms or areas to recognize donors. You will want to create a donor recognition plan that mirrors your gift range chart — for example, the largest gift to a campaign generally gets the most visible naming opportunity, such as naming the entire building or lobby after the donor.

Have a planning meeting.

Hold a meeting with a few key members of your campaign steering committee and a few other volunteers/donors to ask some of the questions above. Ask them how they like to be recognized and what they think will be meaningful and manageable.

Have them help you make a list of all of the ways you might thank and recognize donors. Then organize those activities according to the gift range chart. You might divide your chart into three sections:

  1. Lead donors
  2. Major donors
  3. General donors

Then place appropriate activities under each level.

Establish timing and accountability.

Once you have a stewardship plan that makes sense, you can zero in on timing for the various steps. You’ll also want to indicate whose responsibility each activity will be.

Final Thoughts on Creating Your Stewardship Plan

Don’t fall into the trap of being overly complicated. Design a clear plan which can be executed by campaign staff and one or two volunteers. The easier you plan is to implement and execute, the more likely you are to successfully follow through.

Remember, stewardship is more than simply saying thank you. With an effective stewardship plan, each of your donors will feel appropriately appreciated long after they make their initial commitment to your campaign.


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