Year End Donor Stewardship Ideas and Touch Points


Picture this scenario…it’s a week before Halloween and instead of worrying about your kids costume or how you are going to manage trick-or-treating on a Monday night, you are ordering Christmas cards, writing year-end appeal letters and scheduling December envelope stuffing parties with your admin team. If any of that sounds familiar then you are most likely a fundraiser and you are in the throes of year end planning.

Every year we are flooded with advice from nonprofit consultants and fundraising “guru’s”…Call your donors…don’t call – write a letter…don’t write – send an email…don’t send an email – drop by their house – give a gift….don’t give a gift…the list and advice is endless! It seems like for every piece suggesting one strategy there is another saying ‘NO!’ don’t do that…do this!

But regardless of what strategy you take I think the most important thing is to make a genuine effort. Use whatever is comfortable for you and what makes sense for your organization.  Here are a few cost effective strategies that have worked for me and some of my colleagues. 

Make Thank You calls the week of Thanksgiving. 

This is by no means an original idea but last year I was amazed by how successful the strategy was. I carved out a few hours every day, put everything else on hold, and tried to call as many donors in that time just to say thank you. There was no ask to visit or appeal for a donation, there was no ulterior motive, just me saying Thank You. The focus of the call was on the donor, my appreciation for their gift, and my wish that they have a happy and safe holiday. Many people take off of work this week so it’s easier to find them at home and not in a rush to get off the phone as soon as possible. Make this your own and think of a few unique questions to ask your donors. One colleague asks his donors what their favorite Thanksgiving food is AND for the recipe…he’s gotten some gems from that.

Seed your “drop-bys” the week before you plan to stop by. 

A growing trend in some major and planned giving circles is the “drop-by”. This is essentially an unannounced visit at a donor’s house or office, usually with a small token gift of appreciation. Personally I have not had much success with this strategy; but I know some co-workers and colleagues who have had great success with it so I urge you to consider what is best for you, your organization and your donor.

Those that have had the most success with this strategy will usually “seed” the visit the week or two before with a letter or phone call. This heads up gives the donor an “out” or an opportunity to suggest a better day and time, and if you hear nothing then the assumption is you can proceed as planned. Regardless of the outcome, you’ve given the donor the control of the visit and have let them pick which option they are the most comfortable with.

Use local or children’s art to customize your thank you notes. 

We are always trying to find ways to create more meaningful and personal connections with our donors and are trying to make our touches more personal and appealing on an individual level. One creative way is to use special art work on or in your thank you cards and letters. If you work with a children’s program maybe you can have some of their art printed up as a special edition note or letter head. If you don’t have an in-house children’s or art program you can easily buy some online or partner with another local organization to use some of their artwork. It’s a great way to mix up your donor touches as well as bring in a new component to what your donor sees from you.

Attend someone else’s event with your donor. 

Christmas and the end of the year are full of events, be it nonprofit events, holiday concerts, special performances or other things going on in your community. Likely you are trying to connect with your donors on something new or interesting but maybe they have already been to your year-end event – several times even, or maybe they have another commitment that day and can’t make it. Instead, think of their other interests and invite them to something that isn’t related to your organization but is something you maybe share an interest in or is something else that you know they care about. This is a great way to show your donor that you care about them as a person and not just as a source of funding. It shows you have a genuine interest in them and understand that their commitment to your organization is strong enough to withstand attending another group’s fundraiser or holiday concert and that you are invested in their personal philanthropic mission as much as you are in achieving the goals of your organization.

I hope some of these tips/strategies are helpful as you navigate your year-end fundraising efforts. Good luck out there! 

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