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5 Stewardship Ideas You're Welcome to Steal

Hopefully, last week's post offered some inspiration and an opportunity to think more about how you can leverage your work to keep up with stewardship without breaking your backs. In case you're still searching for ideas, here are a few successful strategies that have worked well in my experience. You are more than welcome to adapt them to your mission and funders!

 

  1. Blank notecards: Everyone loves being thanked personally with a note of congratulations after recent success or joyful event. Sometimes we'll even send a personal note of thanks in advance of a formal acknowledgment letter, just to get there that much faster. This year, a middle school student drew a gorgeous, cartoon-style copepod (a type of plankton) holding a big Thank You sign. We turned it into a blank card and printed a few hundred. It's become the perfect way to send quick, personal notes to our education-oriented funders. You can send the card along with photos or other visual media you might collect.
     
  2. Quick stories of impact: While milestone numbers are impressive, also think of the impact on one individual, or neighborhood, or ecosystem. Your program staff can be your greatest partners in stewardship. They are on the front lines, interacting directly with your target audience and enacting your mission. Even forwarding an email that a staff member sent about an important moment can be powerful. Our scientists often send around updates on the progress of their research. We've forwarded these to the foundations that fund their studies, along with photos from fieldwork or presentations the researchers have given. This process not only demonstrates impact but gives the funder an intimate view of what our scientists do every day.
     
  3. Thanksgiving: While end-of-year fundraising may be ramping up, it's an excellent time to steward foundation or corporate supporters you're not soliciting this quarter. I enjoy sending messages of gratitude to our funders during the Thanksgiving season. It reminds funders that we're thinking about them and that we're both receiving and sharing gratitude in achieving our mission. Typically, I'll send a few copies of stellar thank you notes sent to us by teachers or students. A friendly cover letter and the same letters in each packet, and you've got a replicable, elegant, and quick way to stay in touch with your funders.
     
  4. Photobook: We recently celebrated our 100,000th student to participate in one of our education programs. To share this milestone with our supporters, we created a book of photos and quotes and had them printed through Blurb.com. (You could also use Shutterfly or other online photo services). I've also seen this method implemented successfully with pictures of staff members and quotes about why they're passionate about their mission or grateful for donor support.
     
  5. End of Year Update: Think less annual report and more fireside chat. The end of a calendar year and the start of a new one sparks reflection and optimism for many people. What are you most proud of from last year? Excited about for next year? Challenges that are coming up? Take this opportunity to share these thoughts with your supporters. You could make this from your leader's voice or a collection of staff input. You'll find people appreciate the inside view and the chance to share encouragement, advice, or resources.

There are as many ways to steward a supporter as there are grant professionals. Every one of us has something creative and interesting to add to the conversation with our funders.
 

I hope that you've found these posts useful in deciding how your organization can better steward your supporters! Feel free to comment and add to the conversation below.

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