Bentz Whaley Flessner

Best practices, strategies, and tips for fundraising.

3 Steps to ensure your campaign is as successful in stewarding gifts as it is securing them.

Putting Stewardship First: 3 Recommendations for Stewarding Gifts

When planning a campaign, there are many questions institutions must ask of themselves.

  • How much money should we realistically be trying to raise, and over what period of time?
  • Do we have a strong enough case for support?
  • Do we have enough prospects at each level on the gift pyramid?
  • Do we have strong enough internal and external leadership?
  • Do we have enough staff to execute a successful campaign?

And the list goes on and on…

One important question that is often overlooked or not taken seriously is, “Are we prepared to properly steward campaign gifts once we receive them?” Not only is providing excellent stewardship the right thing to do, it will strengthen your relationship with your donors and improve your chances for a future gift.

Bentz Whaley Flessner consultants conduct hundreds of feasibility study interviews every year. During these interviews, we hear far too many stories from disappointed donors who are hesitant to make new gifts due to poor stewardship. We are able to conclude that many of these outcomes could have been avoided with better internal communications on the front end regarding donor expectations and how to ensure that they are met.

Below are three recommendations that will help ensure that your campaign is as successful in stewarding gifts as it is securing them.

 

  1. Get important stakeholders involved early. Involve those who will ultimately benefit from the gift at the outset. For colleges and universities, this may include deans, department heads, or others. For other organizations, it may include leaders of various programmatic areas. Include these individuals in writing the proposal, and make clear the expectations donors will have once the gift is made. Think of ways to put them in the donor’s place, asking, “What would I want and expect as a result of this gift?”
  2. Make stewardship part of annual performance plans for all staff members managing prospect portfolios. If you strive to be a consistently high-performing organization, it’s not enough to just measure visits, proposals, and dollars raised—although those metrics are very important. Measurable stewardship outcomes could include something very specific like the number of stewardship visits made, or something softer like how well a gift officer collaborated with donor relations staff in stewarding certain gifts.
  3. Don’t wait until the campaign starts to craft a stewardship plan, including appropriate staffing and training. A solid plan would include sections covering annual and lifetime donor recognition levels and privileges, the institution’s gift acceptance policy, a gift acknowledgment and recognition timeline, stewardship reporting activities, and other elements. As for appropriate levels of staffing, a good rule of thumb might be one donor relations professional to every ten major gift officers. Decisions on policy and staffing can be crucial to the overall success of a campaign.

 

Bentz Whaley Flessner’s comprehensive pre-campaign assessments will examine your overall stewardship resources, and make actionable recommendations that produce tangible results. Contact us today to learn more. Together, we transform philanthropy.

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