Do you know what your donors want?
Do they want a clever t-shirt? A fancy certificate? A lovely lapel pin? A practical coffee mug? A recognition lunch?
Maybe. However, while some donors will appreciate receiving trinkets or invitations to recognition events, others really don’t care and still others will view such items as a waste of money.
So, what do your donors really want?
Virtually all donors want to know that their donations will have a positive impact. In other words, donors of all sizes want to know that their contributions make a difference. The younger the donor, the more true this is. In addition, they want to feel like they are partners with the organizations they support.
Renata J. Rafferty, in her book Don’t Just Give It Away, advises philanthropists, “You truly want the charity to view you as a partner in its work, and partnerships are successful only when all parties can be candid with one another.”
The way to partner with donors and let them know they are having the desired impact is through solid stewardship. You need to be transparent. You need to candidly give them the information they want.
Stewardship is defined by the AFP Fundraising Dictionary as:
a process whereby an organization seeks to be worthy of continued philanthropic support, including the acknowledgment of gifts, donor recognition, the honoring of donor intent, prudent investment of gifts, and the effective and efficient use of funds to further the mission of the organization.”
As I mention in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:
Stewardship will help the donor feel good about her commitment. It will ensure that revocable gifts (i.e., bequests) remain in force and, perhaps, increase in value over time. Good stewardship can also lead to another planned gift from the donor. For example, a donor who makes a bequest commitment may be impressed by the organization and a sufficient level of trust might have been developed through the process to allow the donor to feel comfortable making a donation to establish a charitable gift annuity (CGA). A donor who establishes a CGA may feel so comfortable having done so, he may decide to establish a second. Or, a CGA donor may make a bequest commitment.”
Great stewardship can help strengthen your organization’s relationships with donors. The additional benefit is that solid stewardship of existing donors can also build relationships with prospective donors as well.
Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has figured this out.
Rather than generating a bland, corporate annual report that examines the fiscal condition of the organization, Federation has produced a Community Impact Report that looks at the difference the organization is having on people’s lives.
There are a number of things worth noting about the Community Impact Report:
1. It exists. Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about the report is simply that it exists. Most nonprofit organizations thank donors for their support. However, far fewer charities report on how gifts are put to use.
Federation prepares a Community Impact Report each year. Actually, it usually prepares two reports, mid-year and end-of-year documents. Now on its fifth report, Federation uses the information to keep the community updated about its work toward mission fulfillment.
2. It focuses on outcomes. Unlike a typical annual report, the Community Impact Report is not a state-of-the-organization analysis. Instead, the report examines the impact the organization is having on its service area. It’s a report about mission fulfillment.
“Our donors really appreciate seeing the level of accountability we have achieved,” says Alex Stroker, Federation’s Chief Operating Officer. “They also like to know that we are focused on program outcomes.”