Updated: May 17
Assume that acquiring a new donor is at least five times more expensive than retaining an existing one, as many for-profit studies have asserted for years. That should raise some eyebrows if your nonprofit doesn’t have a strong donor stewardship plan.
It’s common sense to invest in your existing donors just as they are investing in you and your mission. A stewardship program establishes your action plan for keeping existing donors happy. (And that involves more than a timely tax acknowledgement letter.) This is especially important for first-time donors who are likely not to return if you ghost them after the first date.
I recently dined at a restaurant for the first time, and was blown away by their “diner stewardship”. Soon after our meal, I received a note from Seth Johnson, the general manager, enthusiastically thanking me for our first visit and giving me special access to him when booking future visits! It didn’t matter that it was automated, because I still knew that they knew it was my first time there, and they put in the extra effort to welcome me back.
I believe stewardship is one of the great secrets to growing your fundraising revenue overall. By developing a consistent system that invests in donor loyalty, you won’t have to work so hard to keep them by your side year after year during fundraising season --- and that frees up new resources to cultivate new donors or build even deeper relationships with the ones you have.