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Scaling Stewardship: Creating a Major Donor Experience for Every Donor

Many nonprofits ask: How can we move closer to creating a major donor–quality stewardship experience for every donor on our file? At the core of the major gifts experience lies your ability to understand how and why the donor feels connected to your organization and then engage them in ways that align with that connection.

Here, we’ll discuss ways you can efficiently scale powerful nonprofit stewardship experiences without compromising quality. So, how can you bring that high-touch experience to everyone on your file? Read on to find out. 


Why Nonprofit Stewardship Is Important 

The current landscape of philanthropy is one of hope. The much-feared recession in 2023 never quite materialized, and while some nonprofits are still reeling from the reduced number of donors in recent years, our 2023 Giving Outlook shows patterns of resiliency. Total philanthropic giving fell in 2022 from its record high of more than $500 billion in 2021. However, giving in 2022 was still up 8.6% over 2019’s pre-pandemic levels. This gives us optimism that giving is growing when viewed through a long-term lens.

For organizations ready to meet the challenge of engaging and stewarding these donors, this is an exciting time for fundraising. There are more ways to connect with donors than ever and more technology to help us ensure those connections are meaningful to the donor.

More than anything else, what needs to happen is a mindset shift from defining stewardship as a “thank-you” program to thinking about it as building natural partners. Framed in this way, we don’t have to prioritize stewardship over acquisition or instead of cultivation. Rather, stewardship becomes more about engagement: you thank the donor, share their impact, continue to cultivate the relationship, and then ask again.

When we define stewardship as building natural partners, we intentionally infuse acknowledgment, recognition, and impact into each aspect of fundraising. In doing so, we strengthen relationships, retention, and the total lifetime value of our donors. 


Is Stewardship Really That Profitable? 

If you still feel like pivoting focus from acquisition to retention is a risk, statistics demonstrate the profitability of having loyal and engaged donors. At Allegiance Group + Pursuant + GivingDNA, we’ve worked with several clients who have created intentional stewardship programs resulting in measurable, year-over-year growth in both giving and the projected lifetime value of their donors. Additionally, when these stewardship strategies include the creation of sustained giving programs, organizations generate a steady stream of funds with reliable multi-year revenue projections.

Consider the Moody Bible Institute, which expected to see a drop in giving during the COVID-19 pandemic. To mitigate this, its development staff sought to engage mid-level donors by using GivingDNA to identify key segments and then personalize and target their outreach. One segment showed a preference for phone communication, so the team set out to make 15 attempts to contact donors every day. They followed up each conversation with a note. As a result, the organization saw an 89% engagement rate and a 20.9% increase in unrestricted revenue.

The Houston SPCA also used GivingDNA to create highly personalized donor engagement strategies, including a new monthly email series specifically for major gift prospects. The nonprofit saw fast and impressive results, including five $100,000 gifts from four families who had never given more than $2,500 in a single prior year. In addition, dozens of donors increased their giving to $10,000 or more, and overall donor engagement increased 26.8%. 


Getting Your Data in Order

We talk a lot about the importance of data here at Allegiance Group + Pursuant + GivingDNA. When scaling your stewardship program to provide the white-glove experience for all your donors, data is going to be at the forefront of those efforts.

However, many find managing their data and retrieving insights difficult because they might not be the most tech-savvy. They may have too much data to sift through, or perhaps they have data coming in from several sources and aren’t sure how to organize it. And how on earth do you know what data is interesting versus what is impactful and actionable?

More affordable tools and technology are available to help you with data than ever, even if you don’t consider your organization to be the most advanced. In fact, we built GivingDNA with this in mind. It’s a powerful tech tool with a fundraising strategy at its heart. That means fundraisers get everything they need and nothing they don’t in a format that’s easy to use.

Prioritizing the cleansing and collection of your data will help you better connect the dots with your donors. Basically, a story starts to emerge with clear directives for your team. For instance, you can see which donors are about to lapse, likely to give monthly, and primed to give more if you ask.

Here’s a quick example: Second Harvest Middle Tennessee, a regional food bank, needed help identifying the best major donor prospects in its database. Traditional wealth screening was too time-consuming, but GivingDNA helped the nonprofit clean up its portfolios and replace underperforming assigned donors with top prospects. As a result, major gift officers knew who to spend their time with. The 2021 fiscal year saw nearly twice as many assigned donors make their largest gift to the organization — a 70% year-over-year increase in revenue from those donors. 


Fully Define Your Case for Support

Understanding the values and benefits your donors have placed on your organization (and being an active participant in shaping their expectations) is the first step to delivering an elevated stewardship experience to more of your donors. You may think you know your case for support; but if you were to ask your donors, would they give the same answer?

Data can help you determine why donors give to you and how your case for support aligns with their values. Only then can you build a meaningful connection with your donors, enabling you to steward them with relevant and impactful experiences.

But the point is to deliver such experiences on a larger scale, right? So, you first need to identify donor segments by their perceived value or connection point to your brand. New technology enables you to do this quickly and accurately, so you can then deliver digital, print, and other touchpoints that feel highly personalized. It also helps you create internal efficiencies that allow you to scale.


GivingDNA-Constituents-Dashboard- Giving Affinity


For instance, GivingDNA features a “Giving Affinity” chart that shows what other types of causes your donors support. You can then look at how these causes might align with the various programs at your organization. A food bank might promote its summer lunch program to those supporting children's wellness initiatives.

The most successful entities in the world understand their unique case for support and use data to connect it with their donors’ values. If you’re struggling to identify why your donors give — or reconcile it with your organization’s mission — our Allegiance + Pursuant + GivingDNA team can help


Useful Tools and Technology

So, what are some tools that can result in a scaled-up high-tech experience? Even for nonprofits with limited resources, powerful tools deliver impactful stewardship experiences on a large scale. A few that come to mind are Virtuous CRM, Onecause, and Gravity.

Then, there’s GivingDNA. This data analytics tool goes well beyond traditional wealth screening and enables you to deliver more personal experiences to donors. It’s your data simplified, with your next steps clearly outlined, so you know exactly how to give all your donors the white-glove attention they both crave and deserve.

GivingDNA is the next generation of wealth intelligence + data analytics that uniquely combines your internal data with external insights to inform all areas of your fundraising strategy, from annual fund segmentation to mid/major gift prospecting and portfolio optimization. Powered by Pursuant’s + Allegiance Group’s decades of fundraising expertise, fundraisers rely on GivingDNA for real-time data visualization to guide insights and strategy across their entire organization. Visit GivingDNA/demo.com to learn more and book a demo.