Donor relations: the end of the road for one size fits all

Fundraisers are increasingly using communication strategies tailored to individual donors. By Emma Rigby

Stewardship, which basically means taking care of donors, is a fundraising buzz word. The general concept of supporter care is well established, but charities have recently started to incorporate more tailored communications into their fundraising strategies.
Last week, WWF unveiled its ‘supporter journey’ initiative, which has been trialled for more than two years after the transformation of the
conservation charity’s fundraising department into its supporter relationship management division.
“Last September we decided to offer a rolling set of communications to each of our new supporters,” says Becki Jupp, senior direct mail manager at WWF. “The journey exposes them to all of our work and enables them to make choices as to how they wish to support WWF.”
This kind of one-on-one communication, based on donors’ individual motivations, is expected to improve donor lifetime value, response rates and attrition. It is an approach that the NSPCC has also adopted. As part of its two-year stewardship strategy, the children’s charity has appointed direct marketing agency Cascaid to find new ways to make donors feel appreciated.
Liesl Elder, director of development and communications at Durham University, says taking care of donors involves telling them you have used their money wisely and maintaining long-term relationships.
“Stewardship means keeping donors engaged after they have made gifts,” she says. “Too many organisations forget to say thank you.”
This may sound simple, but the mechanics are not. Stewardship, by its nature, is about tailoring responses to individuals. The style of communication depends on the type of gift and the relationship you have with the donor. It takes different forms.
If a donor made a gift to a university scholarship fund, stewarding them might involve introducing them to students, says Elder. If the money funded research, then updates on the work might be appropriate. Other donors prefer public recognition – a party could meet their needs.
“It’s about relationship building and thanking people appropriately,” says Elder. “If you don’t say thanks for a birthday present, you won’t be remembered next year. It’s the same with fundraising.”

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