Advice from experts on donor stewardship

stewardship task listA few weeks ago I received an email from NonProfitEasy blog asking me to provide some “expert advice” for non-profits on the topic of donor stewardship. They said it was for their blog. They flattered me a little bit. So, I did what they asked of me. I was very busy at the time and didn’t really spend very much time figuring out what they were doing or how my submission would be used.
And then I received a follow-up email today informing me that their post went live. I clicked through out of curiosity, and the first thing I saw was a big headline saying:

“Donor Stewardship Expert Advice from 29 Industry Leaders”

Oh my . . . that is a lot of “experts“. And, of course, I couldn’t resist clicking through to see who else had submitted advice. Upon clicking the link, I saw names like:

  • Tom Ahern
  • Kivi Leroux Miller
  • Craig Linton
  • Claire Axelrad
  • Joe Garecht
  • Marc Pitman

These are some of the non-profit sector’s biggest consulting names, and they are all people for whom I have tons of respect. The following is just a small taste of what industry leaders said:

So many nonprofits send bad thank you letters – if they send them at all! Nonprofit thank you letters need to be thought of as a very important, highly strategic piece of communication.
A thank you is NOT just a tax receipt. It should look like a personal letter from one friend to another. Ditch the predictable openings like “Thank you for your gift of…” or “On behalf of our organization…” Draw in the donor immediately by placing them front and center. Something as simple as “You made my day…” is much better.
A great thank you is the first step in creating a relationship with your donor that will inspire them to give again and again.”


One of the most important things to do in donor stewardship is connect the donor to the mission. We need to bring donors into what my friend, Shanon Doolittle, calls these ‘mission moments.’ We often overlook these because they’re things our nonprofit is doing on a regular basis. But these are exactly what the donor is investing in. And since they’re happening on a regular basis, it doesn’t take a lot of programming or organizational inconvenience to bring donors in.
The best part? When non-fundraising staff see donors get excited about their work, the non-fundraising staff start willingly helping with the fundraising!”

Here is what I shared and was lucky enough they published:

“Donors are not ATMs, they are people with wishes and dreams. Your job as a fundraising professional is to help people realize those dreams. You are not a mugger lurking in the shadows trying to snatch a donor’s wallet or purse. If there is one guiding principle that is paramount to all other fundraising best practices, it is treat your best donors like you would your childhood BFF.

  • Check-in with them from time-to-time.
  • Care about what is happening in their life.
  • Put their needs ahead of your own.
  • Spend time with them figuring out what they want their philanthropy to accomplish and then show them how your organization can help them accomplish their goals and dreams.

The more personal you can make your cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship interactions, the stronger your relationship will become. Philanthropy done right can be enriching for all parties involved!”

Honestly, I am humbled to be included in today’s post with so many other amazing experts. Thank you, NonProfitEasy blog!
Ready to hear the rest of the advice?  Head over to NonProfitEasy’s full blog post now!
If you have advice of your own — from the front lines — that you’d like to share, please scroll down and do so in the comment box below. Why? Because we can all learn from each other.      😉
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


    1. Thanks, Patricia! It is easy to look good when you’re surrounded by those many smart people. LOL Speaking of smart people giving stewardship advice, I encourage you to share any stewardship advice if you find some time in your busy schedule. Again, thanks for the atta-boy. 🙂

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