Stewardship of Donors as Well as Donor Prospects Really Do Impact the Number and Size of Gifts

Books have been written about donor stewardship – really good books. I wish I could read more of them.

One of the things I learned on my own, however, is how to treat donors and basically, you treat donors as you should treat all people. Relationships with donors need to be sincere. And for those individuals who are your major donors, taking time with these relationships is critical. It is not enough to call with a cursory thank you for a gift/donation. And it is especially not helpful to call after a lot of lapsed time, make the assignment to a junior staff member, or not be prepared to talk about how the gift is making a difference.

Donors give for a myriad of reasons so it is important to know who they are, what their interests in your organization are, and why they give. You cannot do all of these things without developing a relationship – a sincere one.

And what about prospects who are engaged but not yet donors? They need attention, as well, and not just because you want to rope them in for a gift (yes that is a good goal, to be sure.) Prospects need attention because they are already engaged and so you want to build on that relationship. They need (and deserve) attention because you want to sincerely discuss your museum’s mission, needs, and challenges.

I am like many of you – I am a donor as well as a development professional. Recently, as an engaged supporter of one particular organization, I was informed that it needed funds for a specific project. I was told this by board members of the organization. When I mentioned to the Director that I would be first in line to start a fund for this project, when he was ready, I was rebuffed with a comment that went something like this. “Well, that’s nice but we have to keep the lights on.” I think that could have been handled better, don’t you?

Having held the responsibilities of Executive Director and Board member at various museums, I certainly understand the need for operational support. But donors come in all shapes and sizes and have interests that vary. How to delicately move a conversation to annual fund or how to thank the prospect and assure her that her willingness to step up means something – THAT can be tricky. But if we don’t learn how to do this, it could certainly affect donor stewardship efforts. I have seen it happen again and again and in confidential conversations I have had with donors (about other nonprofits) my understanding of this has been confirmed. Food for thought…

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019 Uncategorized

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