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Board Essentials: Donor Stewardship II

I originally posted this in early October. I think the timing is good to reprise the Donor Stewardship concept with a couple of added wrinkles:

Members of the nonprofit Board of Directors make thanking donors part of their job. Letting donors know that they are appreciated for the part they play in bringing the mission to those who can most benefit is a calling all Board members should answer.

It’s part of the Board member’s job description. Activities include acknowledging and communicating with donors, and making these activities part of a routine.  And not in a rote kind of way. But in a thoughtful, well-integrated way that helps strengthen relationships between members of the Board and the donor base.

The simple thank you is first on this list of activities. And the annual appeal which usually occurs in November-December, is the best place to begin. Within a week (or maybe two) of receipt of the gift (by mail or online) a thank you note should be on its way. Board members each agree to thank an agreed-to number of donors during the appeal. They can use personal stationery (for snail mail) or e-mail (for online). And members need to become familiar with IRS requirements on notification that serves as appropriate receipt for tax purposes. I don’t insist (although some do) that there be two separate communications: one official (for Uncle Sam), one  unofficial, more personal “thank you.” Donors prefer that this be handled in one document.  For major donors (gifts upwards of $500 or $1,000) I recommend that you tailor your approach in a way that best fits the mission and culture of your organization.

The important thing is, that there is a system to this and that Board members and other thanking volunteers recognize the importance of the task and commit to follow through. And that there is a nonprofit database where volunteers can enter the fact that they completed their task so staff can monitor this weekly to assure follow through.

You may want to host a donor reception for certain special supporters who should get some special handling. You and members of your development committee can determine who these people are. And hopefully, a small team of Board members will agree to underwrite and host  this event.  It can be held at the nonprofit site, if you feel there is benefit in having your donors see the physical place they are supporting. I like to find a nice spot, perhaps a restaurant or event center that can be engaged for a fair price; and, importantly, that it doesn’t cost your nonprofit a cent.

Forming a bond with you donors will pay dividends. This is what Stewardship is all about.

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