In today’s advancement world, the function of “stewardship” is constrained (typically and artificially) to those activities and responses the institution makes once a gift has been made. For instance, we steward a donor through our public recognition programs and how we extend thanks based on their giving level, etc.
But this constrained view of stewardship misses important opportunities.
Instead of defining stewardship as, “what we do after a donor makes a gift,” we should be defining stewardship as, “enhancing the donor’s comprehensive experience.”
Stewardship insights should be integral to how we invite gifts, how our written proposals make donors feel, how we market our current giving opportunities, what types of planned gifts we accept and why donors should consider them. And many other aspects of the pre-, during-, and post- donor experience.
When institutional leaders get serious about delighting donors, two things will happen:
- They will create a “director of donor experience” type of role which will be responsible for creating experiences for donors at all stages of the gift giving cycle;
- By focusing on the donor experience throughout the gift giving cycle, the institution will become a distinctive charitable giving experience for donors which will attract and retain far more donors than other nonprofits.
The future of stewardship is not about saying “thank you” better.
The future is about creating emotionally-rich responses from individuals before they become donors, while they are giving, and after their gift has been made.