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3 Steps to Increase Individual Giving Through Donor Stewardship

WRITTEN BY Denise Dunbar

As you think about your strategy for increasing individual giving, a key component to consider is donor stewardship. Donor stewardship is a comprehensive effort by a nonprofit to ensure donors experience high-quality and thoughtful interactions that will foster long-term engagement and investment. Implementing a donor stewardship plan into your fundraising activities will ensure that your donors feel valued and know that their contributions are making a difference.

3 Steps to Increase Individual Giving Through Donor Stewardship

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1. Segment Your Donors

In order to properly engage in donor stewardship, you need to understand your donors’ giving habits. First, take an in-depth look at their giving history with your organization and segment them into different giving levels. By doing this you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the types of donors you have, and you can devise a customized stewardship plan for each giving level. 

  • Small or Low Frequency: new donor, gave one time, occasionally gives, gives in small amounts
  • Mid-level Consistent: gives substantially or frequently – yearly, multiple times a year
  • Major and High Value: gives large amounts, or influences others to give
List Snapshot
Here’s an example of how to create a donor list within MobileCause.

MobileCause users have the power to create donor segments based on donors’ contact information, recent engagement with your campaigns, gift amounts, location, and more. 

2. Personalize Your Communications

Now that you’ve segmented your donors you can personalize each level with different connection points. All donors regardless of the amount given should receive an immediate email receipt and a thank you note within a few days of making the donation. In lieu of the standard form letter, having a program participant send the thank you letter with a personal note on the impact of the donation will leave a lasting impression.

With new donors, a thank you email directly from the Executive Director has the potential to start up a conversation with the donor to learn more about them. You can begin building your relationship with this donor by asking them to fill out a survey to determine how they heard of your organization, their interest level in getting involved, and if they’d like to stay updated on your activities. If your organization has a giving circle or membership opportunity included in a donation form, send a link to the form with a description of the perks to encourage them to get involved. A personal invitation to your next event is an opportunity to meet them virtually or in person. Following up with this donor every six weeks through e-blasts and text message updates will keep them informed, and you will stay top of mind with this donor.

Here is an example of how to personalize donor communications with mobile messaging.

Mid-level donors contribute consistently, most likely have attended an event, and receive your newsletter. This donor wants to feel appreciated and acknowledged for their loyalty. An email followed by a phone call from the Executive Director and Development Director to thank them for their generosity is a great way to connect. Invite them to a program event to meet the individuals you serve so they can see firsthand the impact of their donation. This can present unique volunteer opportunities for them. 

Major donors are ardent supporters of your organization and its mission, give large amounts, have high net-worth connections, and inspire others to give. This donor should get several touchpoints acknowledging their generosity. A phone call from the Executive Director and Board Chair expressing gratitude for their gift should occur soon after they donate. The Executive Director can also use that phone call to update the donor on the organization’s activities, even soliciting advice or their opinion on something relevant to the organization. Send this donor an early copy of your annual report, an early invitation to your upcoming gala, or give them a sneak peek at the progress of a capital campaign to honor their commitment to the organization. A token gift such as a commemorative button, lapel pin, or other branded swag is a lovely gesture to show appreciation to this donor.

With MobileCause nonprofits can customize their mobile messaging with donation receipts,
event reminders, thank you notes, and more.

3. Customize and Upgrade Giving Levels

Now that you’re stewarding and connecting in a personal way with your donors, you can customize your donation requests. A strong stewardship plan should help you retain your donors and grow their giving levels over time.

In your appeal letter think about the donors’ last gift and how much you would like them to increase their gift, either by a percentage or a specific amount. Donating is personal so adding an impact metric or emotional story they can relate to will speak directly to the donor. Mid-level donors are a bridge to major giving therefore cultivating this relationship is key to moving them to the next level. Invite them to participate in a crowdfunding campaign such as a run/walk, where they can invite their friends and family to get involved. Host small fundraising events such as an art show or brunch with the board members. For major donors, you can leverage their support to encourage others to give through a matching campaign, birthday campaigns on social media, and video testimonials.

Here is an example from a real world nonprofit’s encouraging donors to participate in their giving circle.

Develop a giving circle where donors who give a certain amount or pay an annual membership fee can be invited into the giving circle. It should hold special perks for members, such as free parking at events or exclusive promotional items. But ultimately, your giving circle should focus on a community of philanthropy. Highlight other ways donors can give to increase their annual gifts; AmazonSmile, a tribute gift, and planned gifts.

The stewardship process can take many months, but once you have a plan in place and are consistent and authentic with your efforts, you will reap the rewards of donor stewardship for years to come.

Denise Dunbar
Digital Fundraising Strategist


Our goal at MobileCause is to help nonprofit organizations create and manage successful digital fundraising campaigns, raise more money and retain donors longer. Request a free demo with one of our fundraising experts to learn, step by step, how MobileCause can simply help set up your campaigns while transforming your results.

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Download these free resources to help you maximize your fundraising efforts,
or take a peek at our library of free resources.

Download this eBook: Establishing Recurring Donors: 7 Ways to Create Long-Lasting Impact
Download Your eBook! Building Meaningful Donor Connections in a COVID World
Download  Thank You Templates: Donor Appreciation for Email, Social Media and Text

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