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The Role of Stewardship in Keeping Sustaining Donors Engaged & Giving

Streamowrks Blog

The Role of Stewardship in Keeping Sustaining Donors Engaged and Giving


As you know, there are different types of donors—each requiring a unique and tailored message that nurtures your long term relationships with them.


With that in mind, we will share the necessity of donor stewardship, the importance of monthly giving programs, and their immediate impact on your nonprofit fundraising efforts.


After a donor donates, a relationship-building process called "donor stewardship" begins. 


Stewarding your donors aims to motivate them to make additional donations. Making a connection with your existing donors will increase their sense of loyalty to your nonprofit organization. Additionally, this will support your future fundraising endeavors.


The goal is to attract a monthly donor, also known as sustainers. Sustainers, or recurring donors, don't receive your standard direct mail appeal campaign messaging because they have already set up a monthly giving program with your organization and give recurring donations.


Why are sustainers so important?

Blackbaud researched the importance of donor retention and found that, on average, 40% of sustaining donors give $25/month. That's $300/year just from monthly giving. And with an average retention rate of 45% for a new monthly donor, we know keeping them engaged is in your best interest.


How can you implement a monthly giving program that makes donors feel engaged and appreciated for their ongoing contributions? That's where stewardship comes in.


From what we've observed in the nonprofit space, an ideal stewardship communication model is three-fold:


• thank and acknowledge them for their gift

• show the impact their gift makes for your organization

• regularly engage them so they are encouraged to stay active and continue to be monthly donors


It may seem like a no-brainer, but there's a reason saying "thank you" is essential when it comes to donor retention. 45% of donors say that receiving an outstanding "thank you" as part of donor communications motivated them to continue to give.


When it comes to stewardship campaigns, they're not one-size-fits-all. Recurring donor engagement should differ from the standard welcome package you send out for individual gifts or new donors. Using segmentation to build a strategy for your stewardship program improves donor retention, encourages more significant donations, and builds relationships with your annual donors.


Think of the acknowledgment letter, for example. Every donor should receive one, but with a sustaining donor, how do they want to receive monthly updates from you? Do they prefer email? Direct mail? Social media? 


By asking how they want to stay involved, you show that you care about their continued support of your nonprofit and its goals.


We've noticed that many sustainers appreciate monthly emails that thank them for their monthly giving. Great ways to show their impact include mini-impact reports like infographics, photos, or videos as part of a sustainer program.


We all like feeling part of something, so creating a member group to chat with others who support your mission is a great. Many nonprofit organizations offer different societies that donors can choose to participate in that focus on your nonprofit's mission. 


Encouraging this form of engagement can be simple when building relationships with donors. We've seen:


• Organizations offer gifts after donors have contributed over a set period

• Nonprofits send out holiday and birthday cards

• Donors invited to sustainer-exclusive events, such as happy hours or fun family days

• Sustainers offered discounts on tickets to annual events


Many donors who start as sustainers may choose to increase their engagement with your organization via different channels. Nonprofits have fostered cultures of long term relationships in several different ways, such as:



Offering media kits, including photos, logos, and social media handles for your nonprofit brand, puts the engagement in the sustainer's hands and is a great strategy.



Sharing information on volunteer opportunities and ways to sign-up and connect allows hands-on engagement to a broader section of the community and can be a jumping off point for recurring gifts.


Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Promote individual fundraising campaigns on social platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Organizations include this way of online giving with a donation form and donate button in order to build relationships with new donors.


Stewardship continues with all of your communications. One way we've seen many nonprofits accomplish this is with their annual statements. When sending out tax information to your monthly donors, nonprofits have highlighted their continued donations' impact. There are four simple ways we've seen this done, depending on the length of sustaining membership:


• Current Period (This year...)

• Lifetime (In the past five years...)

• Year over Year (We did X more this year than last year...)

• Overall (Total of their contributions since they started giving to your organization)


These nonprofit tips and techniques can improve donor stewardship, convert one-time donors into sustainers, and encourage donations through meaningful monthly sustainer programs.


To stay up-to-date on digital marketing tactics for your organization, we encourage you to follow The Buzz: a LinkedIn page that focuses exclusively on nonprofit education, best practices, and tips.