“Donor stewardship is about elevating the donor experience.”
I had a chance to sit down with Christina Todosow, Fitz’s ‘Of Counsel’ Consultant and Director of Stewardship at Rady Children’s Hospital, to talk about donor stewardship. Christina believe that donor stewardship is about elevating the donor experience through thoughtful opportunities and communications that recognize, inform, and convey a message of appreciation from an organization and its leadership. Additionally, stewardship, is a lens through which an organization approaches philanthropy and embraces a culture of giving. To her, it is incredibly important to look at every donor as a partner, or potential partner, in philanthropy.
Christina’s Top 3 Tips for Stewardship
- Promptly receipt. A donor that makes any gift wants to know that it has been received, processed, and that the organization knows about it. This is often the first impression that donors have of an organization and if takes a month to receive a receipt, they may already have forgotten why they gave you a gift in the first place.
- Authentic communication. Sometimes, even in the biggest shops, authentic stewardship falls by the wayside. A thank you should be just that: a thank you. It shouldn’t have dollar amounts or tax-deductible language in it. It should communicate appreciation. The language should be a reflection of how your organization may continue to “speak” to its donors -in print, via newsletters, online, and in person. I do believe that it’s important not to have “ED syndrome” where every “thank you” is signed by an executive director. It’s important that donors at EVERY level are thanked but that the level of signer is relatable and commensurate with a donor’s involvement and support of an organization.
- Show Impact. Stewardship is ultimately about communicating the positive impact that the donor has made with their donation. As donor relations and stewardship professionals, it’s critical to steward not only a donor, but the gift that they are making. This means not only communicating appreciation in the form of thoughtful correspondence, recognition in the form of signage or a donor listing, but also in articulating how a gift (no matter how big or small) has made an impact. Impact can be communicated through an annual report or a letter or a video from a clinician or a patient family or a young artist, but communicating impact means you are stewarding a donor’s gift and encouraging loyalty and an ongoing relationship between an individual/family and an organization and its mission.
And last, but not least, Christina reminds us that: Donor stewardship is everyone’s responsibility – whether you’re in an organization that has a development team of 1 or a team of 100 with a whole department dedicated to it.