Get Real: 3 Practical Stewardship Tips For Small Charities

June 8, 2020

Did you know that of the 86 thousand registered charities in Canada, the overwhelming majority are small charities? Most of them operate with a budget of less than $500k, with a staff of less than 5 people.

So, let’s get real. As a fundraiser for a small charity, chances are that you have very little time to learn, let alone implement best fundraising practices.

You need quick, affordable fundraising solutions. You need advice that finds the perfect balance between significantly boosting revenue, without taking over your to-do list.

So, let’s cut to the chase – here are my 3 practical stewardship tips for small charities:

1. STEWARDSHIP DOESN’T HAVE TO BE EXPENSIVE

Eventually, when donors are solicited over and over again without being told what their gifts have helped to achieve, they’re bound to drop off your list. It’s not enough to send a solicitation that identifies the need for your donors’ help. You need separate, standalone stewardship pieces.

Are you finding that the net revenue of some of your solicitation appeals, or segments (i.e. lapsed donors) are alarmingly low? If your mailing costs are coming close to exceeding your gross revenue, consider replacing a solicitation appeal with a stewardship piece. By putting stewardship at the heart of your donors’ journey, you will not only increase your revenue in your later appeals, but you will also be more likely to retain donors over the long term.

If it’s not in your budget to cut a solicitation, or the revenue it generates, consider some of the other quick, free ways that you can realistically implement stewardship. Maybe you can email your donors. Or, maybe you can ask volunteers for some help to call and thank donors.

2. THERE IS NO ACQUISITION WITHOUT STEWARDSHIP

As a small charity, acquisition can sometimes feel painfully expensive and risky. You might wonder if the charity will even stay open long enough for you to see a return. So, when you do decide to take the plunge and invest in acquisition, be sure to have your stewardship and second gift conversion strategy ready. It needs to be your number one priority.

You can invest all of your time and energy into launching the most expensive acquisition campaign that generates a plethora of new leads. But, if you don’t have a strong new donor journey mapped out, with a high level of personalization and stewardship, you may as well kiss those donors, and your investment, goodbye.

3. STEWARDSHIP DOESN’T HAVE TO BE TIME CONSUMING

Lastly, stewardship does not have to mean a big, glam newsletter with fancy graphics. In fact, many donors would be upset with you spending that type of money. Stewardship can be as simple as a written letter, or a quick email.

I’ve sent long rambling emails to donors to update them on what we’ve been up to, just to have them responded to with an unexpected, sizeable major gift. I’ve received thank you letters in response to my thank you letters, along with an increase in donation.

My point is: don’t break your back implementing stewardship. Donors just want to be kept in the loop – it’s that simple.

We often talk the talk about donor centricity. Well, now it’s time to walk the walk. I encourage you to make stewardship the heart of your fundraising strategy. The wonderful thing about stewardship is that, when done properly, it doesn’t just increase your revenue, it gives donors a greater sense of purpose, reconnects you with the bigger picture of a cause you believe in, and brings joy back into your daily work of fundraising.

Is stewardship a part of your fundraising strategy? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below.

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Lindsay Thibault

Lindsay Thibault

Fundraiser. Feminist. Spin addict & dog mom. Lover of all things hygge.