Spring Clean Your Stewardship Efforts

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Spring Clean Your Stewardship Efforts

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Sue Citro

When you think about all of the areas of fundraising and what goes into each, why does it usually seem like stewardship draws the short straw? So often, I hear practitioners talk about stewardship as if it’s a thing that must be done instead of the best and possibly coolest thing we get to do on the job as fundraisers.

The joy of sharing with someone that they just created a lasting impact is a big part of why I love my job — and if I’m being candid, why my job doesn’t feel like a job most days. Stewardship is so much more than saying thank you, even though that’s a good place to start. It involves so many of the senses and isn’t about the actual size of an impact report or another piece of collateral as much as it is the feeling felt by the supporter when reading or interacting with it. It’s beautiful to hear someone talk about their passion for the cause, why they support the mission and what made them decide to take action and do more to help.

Why is stewardship not always given its due? Why is it so common for us to get caught up in the mechanics of it and having all of the things to begin with? Another report, another meeting, next thing, next thing, let’s pile more on. I’m guilty of that myself. This spring is the perfect time to tidy up your stewardship efforts and maybe even purge some things that are feeling a bit stale. Take some time to look at your materials with fresh eyes.

Whether you make a new donation yourself to fall into your organization’s regular giving stream or curl up with your lapsed donor email welcome series, spend time thinking about what you feel as you encounter each touch point.

  • Do you feel the joy or is it sterile?
  • Are you proud of what you helped to achieve, or does it create more questions than answers?
  • Does it further your love for the cause, or does it feel like it could be sent by any organization about anything?

Whatever the answer, there’s always something you can do differently to make the stewardship effort more meaningful and help you feel more as you engage with the piece.

The idea here isn’t to do more — if anything, it’s to figure out how you can do less. Maybe you don’t need five emails if you can create two or three that are even more meaningful and full of all the feels. If you’re sending a card, how can it feel like it comes not just from a friend, but a close friend? The goal is to focus on one touch point and make it a home run, something that goes deeper to get you around all the bases at once instead of going one base at a time with each tactic.

As you review your stewardship videos and other storytelling vehicles, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking you need production-level footage and more expensive packaging. If you find yourself doing that, stop. Because most times when you ask someone what’s most meaningful to them, it’s not the store-bought, cookie-cutter thing that looks like every other organization. It is usually a photo snapped at a special time, something silly and handmade, something that distills feeling or emotion. And it’s usually one thing, not a coordinated or matching set. One truly authentic, sincere, and meaningful touch point is priceless for your stewardship program.

So, as we welcome spring, I invite you to welcome some spring cleaning into your stewardship efforts, to double down on the things giving you all the feels and to simplify the rest to save some time and resources that you can use to go deeper with your stewardship program.

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