Next-Level Stewardship: Illustrating Impact

You and your Advancement colleagues are likely good at thanking donors. Experience suggests you send thank you letters within 24-48 hours of receiving gifts, make targeted personal phone calls to offer thanks, send handwritten notes, recognize donors in annual reports, and maybe even gather annually to thank donors in person.

But experience also shows you may have room for improvement at next-level stewardship: illustrating the impact of your donors’ generosity. And studies confirm this is what donors are seeking.

Brainstorming how you can get better at illustrating donor impact is certainly time well spent. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Daily Examples: What if you picked one donor, each day, to engage in a very personal way to illustrate the impact their generosity is having on your institution? If not daily, then how about weekly? What might that look like?

Can you take an in-action photo of something happening at your location, today, and send a “because of you….” accompanying message? As a donor to many organizations, I would LOVE that.

How can you illustrate the impact of your donors’ generosity on a daily (or weekly) basis?

Video: The idea above works well through video, also. But what if you enhanced your thank you letter process to add video thanks for every donor gift? There are resources that can help you operationalize this if you want to expand your stewardship outreach.

How might you illustrate donor impact through video?

Web Site: Research shows that your website is the #1 resource donors use in making their decision to give (or not to give). Do you have donor impact information on this 24/7 resource that is easy to find, compelling, and inspiring?

How can you better illustrate the impact of generosity on this free medium that is cited as the #1 resource donors use in making their decision to give?

Annual Fund: Have you developed a case statement that defines your annual fund and articulates all the ways your annual fund impacts your institution? If not, this would be a good place to start.

Do you state upfront in the annual fund “kickoff” message what collective support of the annual fund will accomplish for your institution this year?

Do you offer an “impact report” at year-end that quantifies the many ways the annual fund has positively impacted your organization this year?

How can you illustrate donor impact through your annual fund?

Campaign: Sometimes, getting better at illustrating impact means being more intentional about how we spend our time. Too often, as comprehensive fundraising campaigns end, we hold a campaign celebration event and then return to business as usual.

But what if, at the end of your current or next campaign, you transitioned from the Public Phase to the “Celebration Phase” and spent 6-12 months in that phase, focused on illustrating the impact that campaign gifts have had in many different and creative ways?

I worked at a place that did this and we discovered that, while we did a good job of providing annual stewardship reports to endowed scholarship donors, we didn’t do that for donors who gave major gifts for other purposes (buildings, programs, faculty support). So we instituted additional annual stewardship reports for these types of gifts.

How might an intentional Celebration Phase help you illustrate the impact of campaign gifts to your donors in a more detailed and personal way?

Moving beyond thanking to illustrating the impact of your donors’ philanthropy will not only help you retain more donors; it will result in increasingly larger gifts that will compound your donors’ philanthropic investment over time.


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