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Creating Your Stewardship Plan

When you’re a small or medium size nonprofit it can be challenging finding time to create your annual development plan (see last week’s blog – Six Steps to Your Fundraising Plan) and now you need a stewardship plan? YES! Stewardship is an important key to retention and retaining donors is cheaper than acquiring them. The two plans go together.


Remember, donors can give to any nonprofit and, more importantly, they don’t have to give at all! Expressing gratitude quickly is important when you have a donor financially supporting your mission. This is where your Gratitude Team can help. This team consists of your board, staff and volunteers to help say, “thank you” and share how their gift is being used.

The word "thank you" and a heart.

You should have 6 to 7 key touches throughout the year to keep donors engaged with your nonprofit. A stewardship plan is the pathway to achieving those touchpoints. Approaching stewardship through multi-channel marketing can help keep your nonprofit front and center but don’t rely solely on email to achieve those 6 to 7 touchpoints. Again, use your Gratitude Team to make thank you calls, write notes, or send holiday cards. Be creative and be in “touch”!


Hopefully, all your communications throughout the year will have shown how the donor’s gift was used, made them feel appreciated and inspired to make another gift to your organization.

There are four sections to think about when creating your donor segmented stewardship plan:

Gift Acknowledgement:

How are you letting the donor know you appreciate their support, and that their gift has been received?

Your donation page may be set up to automatically send a “thank you” email. That’s a great first step! Follow that up with a personal hand-written thank you. This is where your “Gratitude Team” can help. Provide them with the information needed such as, what their gift went towards, if they are a first time donor, consecutive annual donor, etc. This lets the donor know you know them and personalizes the note.

These personal thank you’s can be segmented by giving level so your major donors are getting personally thanked by the Executive Director and/or Board Members. Then always record the stewardship action on the donor’s profile.

Donor Recognition:

How are you recognizing your donors publicly for supporting your nonprofit?

First, always check with the donor before you publicly recognize them. Some will prefer to remain anonymous, and you should honor their wishes. Highlight a monthly donor in your newsletter by having them share why they give to your organization.

How about a shout out on your social media platforms for first time donors.

You might consider a special thank you note recognizing donors who’ve been giving to your organization consecutively for 3 year or 5 years or longer! This is a nice touch point and shows you recognize their longevity in supporting your mission.

Boy and girl communicating.

Impact Reporting:

How are you conveying the results of your donor’s gift?

Are you mailing your annual report to donors and including a handwritten note? Again, use your Gratitude Team to help with writing thank yous.

Ideally, you are meeting with your major donors a couple times a year to personally share successes and challenges your organization is facing and express your gratitude for their support.

Host a couple of roundtable coffee/cocktail hours with donors when you launch your annual report – in person or virtually. This allows you to engage more people and your donors get to know you better.

Special Communications/Engagement:

Creating a stewardship plan with special engagement makes your donors feel appreciated and inspired

to give again?

This is in addition to what you’re doing already in the other 3 areas. Get creative! The purpose of stewardship is building trust and deepening your relationship with your donors.


Have you considered hosting an open house at your nonprofit? You can provide donors a tour of your program(s) or space and a chance to meet staff and board members.

Earlier I mentioned above that it’s a good idea to segment your donors when creating your stewardship plan. This allows for:

  • personalized communications

  • improves donor engagement

  • can be more efficient for organizations – especially smaller nonprofits


Stewardship is not a one size fits all strategy and, as a small or medium size nonprofit, you have limited resources and capacity so segment, call on your Gratitude Team and be consistent in your stewardship.


If I can help you develop your stewardship plan then let’s talk.

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