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As you develop your annual giving program, it’s important to incorporate multiple touch points throughout the year to effectively engage your constituents in your mission. The goal of your cultivation and stewardship plan is to have your constituents invest in your mission, and ensure that they will give a gift. It’s important to note that the solicitation of the gift is just one part of the plan. Without a proper foundation of informing your constituents about your mission, and getting them involved in your work, a gift is harder to come by, especially one that will be repeatable. And, repeatable gifts are the bread and butter of an annual giving campaign.
For more information on the importance of stewardship and cultivation, and the three I’s of cultivation-Inform, Involve and Invest-see our blog article ‘Smart data collection and segmentation can drive your fundraising strategy.’
Just as your segments help you focus your energies on the donors and prospects with the greatest potential, your cultivation and stewardship plan should echo the prioritization of your segments. Develop the most appropriate grouping of activities to meet the needs of the constituents in those segments, and spend the most time cultivating and stewarding the constituents with the greatest potential.
According to Penelope Burk, author of Donor Centered Fundraising, 84% of donors say they would give again to your organization if they received a personalized thank you that clearly identified how the gift benefitted your organization. Your donors clearly want to understand the impact of their gift, and will keep giving when it is effectively communicated to them.
Stewardship and cultivation activities come in many different shapes and sizes. Look to your organization’s calendar of events to help drive your specific plans. The idea is not to add more things to do into your already busy calendar, but to maximize those events or outreach activities to better communicate what impact your donors’ gifts will have on those you serve.
Does your organization create an annual report of gifts to recognize donors? Consider sending it to donors and non-donors alike as a way of thanking those who contributed and cultivating those who have not given. Identify your top 10, 25, 100 donors and send your annual report to them first, in a 9×12 envelope, using first-class postage. Include a personal note from the head of your organization thanking them for their leadership gifts. Send the remainder out a week later, in less expensive packaging.
The creation of donor societies is another way to cultivate and steward donors and to invite donors to move to a higher-level gift. To decide what giving levels make the most sense for your organization, develop a gift tier chart of past gifts and see where the gift ranges exist. Make your second-highest tier be a range that only a few have attained, and allow for a level that even your highest donors can strive for. Name your giving societies in a way that would be meaningful to your constituents. Want to encourage more donors to give at $1,000+ level? Then consider calling gifts over $1,000 a ‘leadership gift’ and offer special incentives to people who give at this level, such as a reception with the head of your organization, special parking privileges or reserved seating at events, invitation to a leadership donor event, etc.
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