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5 donor segments for effective year-end stewardship

November 30, 2021
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Donor stewardship is an essential element of fundraising. Not only does stewardship foster strong relationships between your nonprofit organization and donors, but it also helps you retain support in the long run.

Make the most of the busy year-end fundraising season by prioritizing donor stewardship. To ensure an effective strategy, segment supporters based on shared characteristics such as their giving history and past involvement with your organization. This will help you prepare personalized, effective communications that inspire donors to remain committed to your cause.

Here are five donor segments to use as the basis of your nonprofit’s year-end stewardship efforts.

1. New donors

New donors are essential to driving your organization’s growth every year. However, when you consider the time and cost associated with acquiring new supporters, it becomes crucial to develop a year-end stewardship plan for retaining their support beyond a one-time donation. Here are a few ideas for stewarding new donors:

  • Send a thank-you. When your organization receives gifts from new donors, follow up by sending a thank-you or acknowledgment letter that conveys your appreciation for their support. To take your communication efforts to the next level, consider enlisting your staff or volunteers to make personal phone calls to new donors, thanking them for getting involved with your nonprofit.
  • Share your impact. Once your new donors have given their first financial contribution, send them updates on the real-life impact of their gifts. A compelling impact story, backed by data, can be a powerful way to help your supporters emotionally connect with your organization’s purpose.

Convince your new donors to stay involved with your organization long after their initial contribution by keeping them updated and offering other opportunities for them to deepen their engagement, such as volunteering.

2. Low-level donors

Every nonprofit defines its segments differently. Typically, the majority of your annual donors are those giving under $500 per year. Since this group is most likely your largest segment of donors, it’s essential to make each individual supporter feel valued for their contributions.

To get started, consider:

  • Sending holiday cards. Keep in touch with your low-level donors by reaching out from time to time with a holiday card that reminds them of your purpose and provides updates on how they can get involved.
  • Following up with acknowledgment letters. As with any donor, always take the time to acknowledge your donors for their contributions. The more valued they feel, the more eager they’ll be to continue engaging with your organization.
  • Giving social media shout-outs. Add fields for your donors to input their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram information to your online donation page, then tag them when you’re featuring their support on your social media accounts. Fundraising technology, such as Bonterra Donor Engagement Guided Fundraising solution, allows you to easily add custom fields to capture this information on your donation pages.

For this largest segment, prioritize touchpoints that your organization can easily fulfill for many donors. Be sure to go beyond keeping them updated through email newsletters and social media posts to develop a more long-lasting connection with each supporter.

3. Mid-level donors

Mid-level donors contribute more than the average low-level donor, but below the major gift threshold. Engage this segment by:

  • Sending handwritten holiday cards. Since this group is likely smaller than your low-level supporters, your nonprofit can dedicate some time to individually writing holiday cards for these donors.
  • Increasing their access. Consider inviting mid-level donors to some of your major donor appreciation events to deepen their engagement. You can even assign relationship managers to donors for a more personalized experience.
  • Inviting them to visit. Invite your mid-level donors to visit your nonprofit and witness the daily work that goes into furthering your purpose. This provides a wonderful opportunity to build face-to-face relationships and cultivate prospective major donors.

Regardless of whether they’re already giving at their highest capacity or have the potential to become major donors down the line, effective year-end stewardship ensures that you retain these mid-level donors’ support into the coming year and beyond.

4. Monthly donors

A monthly donor program is a valuable asset for your nonprofit organization, providing you with significant predictable revenue each month. Though these donations are generally automated each month, it’s important to highlight the impact of these recurring donors by:

  • Sharing a year-in-review report. Beyond sending automated thank-you's for each monthly gift, make it a point to send your recurring donors a special report at the end of the year that speaks to their impact.
  • Sending personalized, handwritten cards. Use your donor management system to enhance your stewardship efforts by writing customized, meaningful notes to your monthly donors based on the information in their profiles.
  • Feature monthly donors online. Foster a successful monthly giving program by recognizing your most dedicated monthly donors on your nonprofit’s website and social media accounts. This will help spread awareness of your purpose and make your supporters feel valued.

Your monthly donors already provide a reliable source of revenue for your organization, but taking the time to cultivate stronger relationships with these supporters will ensure they continue their contributions far into the future.

5. Major donors

Many major donors are considering gifts before the year comes to a close or how to contribute in the following year. By stewarding them in December, you’ll solidify your nonprofit-major donor relationships and ensure that your organization remains at the top of your donors' minds when it comes to their next major gift. Cultivate your major donors by:

  • Arranging personal visits. Schedule one-on-one lunches with your top major donors to discuss your impact and show your appreciation in a more personal manner.
  • Sending a holiday thank-you gift. Show gratitude to major donors by sending them branded merchandise or a small seasonal gift, such as a poinsettia.
  • Hosting a holiday appreciation event. The holidays are full of parties, so even a small appreciation event can leave a big impression on major donors at the end of the year.

A personal touch can go a long way toward strengthening your major donor relationships. Give your major donors more opportunities to engage with your organization, such as inviting them to a board meeting, to make them feel valued for their support.

Retaining your donors year after year

Make the most of the busy giving season with renewed efforts toward retention. Stay on top of your year-end stewardship efforts by setting aside time each week to thank each donor segment for their gifts. This upfront investment will help you hit the ground running next year.

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