DickersonBakker Blog

Donor stewardship through appreciation and gratitude

What is Donor Stewardship?

Donors are the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations. Their contributions go beyond financial support, impacting the nonprofit's ability to fulfill its mission, expand its reach, and create positive change in society. Building and maintaining strong relationships by practicing donor stewardship is crucial for the continued success and impact of nonprofits. No matter what the size of the donation, we believe you should Treat Every Donor Like a Major Donor

All About Donor Stewardship

Donor stewardship is the process of nurturing and strengthening relationships with donors through actions like expressing gratitude, maintaining open communication, and building trust to ensure their ongoing support and engagement with a nonprofit organization.

The primary goal of donor stewardship is to ensure that donors feel valued, engaged, and connected to the organization's mission and impact. Effective donor stewardship can lead to increased donor retention, continued support, and potential long-term partnerships.

Key activities in donor stewardship typically include personalized thank-you notes, updates on how their donations are making a difference, invitations to events or meetings, and opportunities for involvement in the organization's activities.

Donor Stewardship Best Practices

What are some of the key elements involved in successful donor stewardship? Strengthening relationships with donors takes practice as well as intentional actions. Here are some best practices for effective donor stewardship.


Acknowledgment is a cornerstone of donor stewardship. It goes beyond a simple thank-you and involves expressing genuine appreciation for a donor's generosity and commitment. Timely acknowledgment communicates that their contributions are not only noticed but also deeply valued. It sets the stage for a strong and lasting relationship, encouraging donors to stay engaged and continue their support, knowing their contributions make a meaningful difference in the organization's mission and the lives it touches.

Say Thank You

A heartfelt thank-you acknowledges the donor's generosity and recognizes their vital role in advancing the organization's mission. It instills a sense of pride and fulfillment in donors, reinforcing their commitment and encouraging future contributions. 

Moreover, expressing gratitude strengthens trust, fosters loyalty, and sets the stage for ongoing engagement, demonstrating that their support is genuinely appreciated and impactful. 

Explain Their Impact

By clearly articulating how their support directly benefits individuals, communities, or causes, donors can see the real-world difference their generosity makes. Impact stories, data, and testimonials provide donors with a sense of fulfillment and confidence that their investments in the organization's mission are effectively addressing pressing issues and creating positive change. This understanding not only reinforces their commitment but also encourages continued support, as donors can witness the concrete results of their philanthropy.

Invite Them To Give Again

By extending invitations for future support, nonprofits express their trust in donors' continued commitment to shared goals. This practice fosters a sense of belonging and reinforces the idea that donors are an integral part of the organization's success story. It also ensures a steady stream of support, allowing nonprofits to plan for the future and maximize their effectiveness in addressing critical issues and causes.

Create a Donor Stewardship Plan

Creating a donor stewardship plan involves a systematic approach to building and maintaining strong relationships with your supporters. Let’s look at a few key elements to include in your donor stewardship plan to help you get started. 

Identify a Team

Your team should typically include staff members with strong interpersonal and communication skills, as they will be responsible for engaging with donors, expressing gratitude, and providing updates on the organization's impact. 

Additionally, individuals with data management and analytics expertise can help track donor interactions and measure the effectiveness of stewardship efforts. Collaborative team members who can work together seamlessly are essential for ensuring that donors receive consistent and meaningful engagement throughout their journey with the organization.

Set a Cadence

Setting a cadence for donor stewardship involves establishing a structured schedule for engaging with donors throughout the year. This plan ensures regular and consistent communication, acknowledgment, and appreciation. 

By strategically timing thank-you messages, impact updates, and invitations to events or campaigns, organizations can maintain a meaningful connection with donors. A well-defined cadence ensures that stewardship efforts are not sporadic but rather part of an ongoing and intentional process, which helps foster stronger donor relationships and encourages continued support.

Create a Positive Relationship

Creating a positive relationship in donor stewardship is fundamental to nurturing long-term support. It entails transparent communication, genuine appreciation, and tailored engagement that resonates with each donor. By consistently delivering on promises, sharing impact stories, seeking feedback, and treating donors as partners rather than just contributors, nonprofits can build trust and loyalty. 

This positive connection motivates donors to stay engaged, increase their support, and advocate for the organization's mission, ultimately leading to a more sustainable and impactful philanthropic partnership.

Communicate with Your Donors

Effective communication with donors is the cornerstone of donor stewardship, as it establishes a connection built on trust, transparency, and appreciation. Regular and meaningful interactions keep donors informed about the organization's impact, successes, and ongoing needs. It shows them that their support is making a tangible difference and reinforces their commitment to the cause.

Ask For Feedback

By actively seeking input from donors, nonprofits gain valuable insights into their preferences, expectations, and areas for enhancement. This feedback can inform more personalized engagement strategies, refine communication, and shape the donor experience. 

Moreover, it cultivates a sense of partnership and involvement, showing donors that their opinions are valued, and their voices matter in shaping the organization's future.

Improve Donor Relationships

If you need help putting donor stewardship into practice, the team at DickersonBakker is here for you. Whether you're looking to optimize your communication channels, refine your donor engagement approach, or enhance your fundraising efforts, our dedicated team is equipped to help you find A Better Way to Fundraise. Contact us today to explore how we can collaborate on your donor stewardship journey.

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