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3 donor stewardship tips to retain year-end donors

Bonterra Author
January 10, 2023
A woman on on the phone uses stewardship strategies to retain year-end donors.

As your nonprofit organization enters the new year, you’re likely thinking about your goals and adjusting your fundraising strategies accordingly. One of the most important things to evaluate at the start of a new year is your nonprofit’s donor stewardship strategy. 

Nonprofit donor stewardship is the key to retaining new donors from your year-end campaign. People appreciate being thanked for their support, and genuine thanks can encourage them to donate again in the future, deepen their involvement, and share your purpose with their network. Plus, your stewardship efforts could encourage them to support more nonprofit organizations besides your own, which improves the nonprofit ecosystem as a whole.

But how do you get started with donor stewardship and ensure your strategy leads to success? Explore these three tips to implement a winning donor stewardship strategy and retain year-end donors.  

1. Start by thanking your donors

Creating a comprehensive donor stewardship strategy from scratch can feel overwhelming, so start small with simple acts of appreciation. Send thank-you emails or make thank-you phone calls to donors who contributed to your year-end campaign. Set a goal of sending a certain number of messages per day each week at the start of the year. Even an hour of stewardship work can make a major impact on retaining donors.  

2. Segment supporters to send personalized messages 

When you’re ready to dive a little deeper into stewardship, utilize donor management software to segment your donors for more personalized messages. Look for commonalities between supporters in your database, then create segments such as:

  • First-time minor donors
  • First-time mid-level donors
  • New recurring donors
  • Volunteers
  • Lapsed donors
  • Event attendees

Once you’ve created these segments within your database, tailor your year-end thank-you emails to appeal to the unique needs and preferences of each group. For example, you might send personalized thank-you videos to new recurring donors and short thank-you texts to first-time volunteers.

As you develop your segmentation strategy, take note of how different segments engage with your messages. Make adjustments and create new groups as needed based on the information you receive about donors’ communication preferences.

3. Follow the 6 stages of donor engagement 

Donor engagement typically follows six stages, each of which creates a stronger bond with donors. We’ll explore the steps your nonprofit can take in each stage to increase the chances of retaining year-end donors. 

Stage 1: Identify

Donors start their philanthropic journey by identifying causes they care about and organizations that support those causes. You can play a part in this phase by hosting events where prospects can learn more about your organization and by maintaining an active presence on social media, your website, and within the community.

Stage 2: Initiate

Once the donor chooses a nonprofit that aligns with their values, the donor takes action by making a donation or volunteering their time to an organization. Encourage prospects to take this step by streamlining your website’s donation page and registration forms. Prioritize user experience to make it easy for donors to give online.

Stage 3: Insist

In this stage, donors have made a donation but need reassurance that supporting your nonprofit is the right decision. By thanking these donors, sending a post-donation welcome, and sharing more information about your organization’s purpose, you will reassure the donor’s decision to support your organization and make them feel welcome.

Stage 4: Instill

One of the most important steps to making your donors feel welcome is instilling your nonprofit’s presence in new donors’ lives. Take the time to:

  • Send more personalized messages.
  • Invite donors to exclusive experiences like facility tours.
  • Check in with individual donors to make sure they feel like a vital part of your organization. 

Utilize digital communication tools like Bonterra Donor Engagement’s Guided Fundraising solution (formerly Network for Good) to send personalized messages to new donor segments and even individual donors. 

Stage 5: Impact

At this point, donors need to know what kind of tangible impact their support is making. Show them that their support is valuable by sending an impact report on the change your organization has made with their donations and what your plans are for the future. 

Stage 6: Include

In the last phase, your donors genuinely feel like part of your organization. They feel included and use insider language to describe their relationship with your nonprofit. They promote your work and fundraising campaigns to their network and serve as an enthusiastic advocate for your work. 

Consider inviting donors in this phase to be peer-to-peer fundraisers or interviewing them for supporter spotlights in your newsletter.  

Investing in stewardship to retain year-end donors 

Donor stewardship can be a lengthy process, but it is key to growing your organization and making a lasting impact on donors. Take the time to invest in a strong donor stewardship strategy that aligns with your fundraising goals now, and you’ll set your nonprofit up for a more successful end-of-year campaign. 

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Written by

Bonterra Author
    Donor Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing