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6 Post-Gift Stewardship Strategies (& How to Pull Them Off)

6 Post-Gift Stewardship Strategies (& How to Pull Them Off)

The following is a guest post from iATS Payments.

Donors drive your mission forward. Their charitable contributions fund your programs, campaigns, events, administrative costs, and more. With all that they do for your nonprofit, how do you show your appreciation?


Donors drive your mission forward. Their charitable contributions fund your programs, campaigns, events, administrative costs, and more. With all that they do for your nonprofit, how do you show your appreciation?

Donors who feel valued by your nonprofit are more likely to remain committed supporters. That’s why post-gift stewardship is an essential part of the fundraising process. Rather than acquiring new donors, stewardship focuses on building relationships with your existing supporters so that you can cultivate repeat gifts down the line.

In this guide, we’ll outline everything you need to know about post-gift stewardship, including:

  • What is Post-Gift Stewardship?
  • What Are The Major Goals of Post-Gift Stewardship?
  • 6 Strategies to Improve Your Post-Gift Stewardship

Whether your donors show support online, in-person, or through in-kind gifts, our tips will help you make saying “thank you” a success.

What is Post-Gift Stewardship?

Post-gift stewardships refers to the research and relationship-building process that occurs after a donation is made to your organization.

Some examples include sending thank-you letters, hosting donor appreciation events, and reporting on the impact of a gift. These stewardship techniques will help ensure that supporters are committed to your cause for years to come.

What Are The Major Goals of Post-Gift Stewardship?

Stewardship involves more than just saying “thank you.” It’s about treating your donor as a partner throughout the entire giving process, from acknowledging the impact of their gift to using it as they intended.

When done correctly, post-gift stewardship can:

  • Improve donor retention. The average donor retention rate is around 43%, meaning that most donors who give this year won’t give again. Increase those chances by making your donors feel appreciated.
  • Increase the lifetime value of a gift. When your donors are properly stewarded, you can watch the total net contribution that a donor generates during their lifetime steadily increase.
  • Promote recurring gifts. If your donation request doesn’t include an option to sign up for recurring gifts, you can solicit them through stewardship. For instance, your nonprofit could send out a donation confirmation email that includes ways to further their support.

To accomplish these goals, your nonprofit simply needs to follow-up on donations and implement stewardship techniques, which we’ll get into in the next section!

6 Strategies to Improve Your Post-Gift Stewardship

If you’re unsure how to get started with post-gift stewardship or you’re looking to improve your current efforts, here are six strategies to help you out:

1. Segment your donors

Analyzing the data provided by your donor management platform, or nonprofit CRM, can help maximize your fundraising and stewardship efforts. With information like average gift amount and engagement history, your nonprofit can personalize outreach and ultimately build stronger relationships with donors.

That’s why it’s important to segment your database to discover actionable insights. Donor segmentation is the act of organizing your donors into well-defined groups, allowing your nonprofit to target the right supporters and communicate with them in an impactful way.

Your segmentation strategy will depend on the needs of your organization, but these donor groups are a strong place to start:

  • New Donors: First-time donors often have the lowest retention rate. But if you can steward a second donation, your retention rate will increase dramatically. Start by sending a personalized follow-up email with opportunities for further engagement and upcoming events.
  • Recurring Donors: Monthly donors have the highest retention rates, because contributions are automatically withdrawn from their bank accounts. However, that doesn’t mean you can ignore their generosity. Thank them after each recurring gift and try to get them involved in other activities at your organization to help strengthen their commitment to your cause.
  • Major Donors: Most nonprofits focus their stewardship efforts on these high-level donors, encouraging them to either increase or maintain their current giving. While it’s important that your organization recognizes their value, spread your stewardship to other donor groups as well.
  • Lapsed Donors: Don’t give up on supporters who haven’t been involved with your organization recently. Express your appreciation for their past involvement and consider sending them a survey to solicit feedback about your past stewardship efforts.

All donors are valuable to your organization. However, knowing who your donors are and how they give will help guide the rest of your stewardship efforts.

2. Personalize your acknowledgements and recognition

Post-gift stewardship extends far beyond a simple thank-you note. In order to engage with your donors effectively, it’s important to develop personalized acknowledgement and recognition opportunities.

While these terms may sound similar, acknowledgment goes beyond a warm token of appreciation—it’s a matter of legal compliance.

The IRS requires nonprofits to send a formal acknowledgement letter to donors who give more than $250. This document, much like a receipt, can be used by the donor to claim a tax deduction. A leader from your organization will generally write the letter, saying “thank you” and describing the donation amount or non-cash contribution.

Although this satisfies the legal requirement of post-gift stewardship, it doesn’t foster a strong personal connection between your nonprofit and its supporters.

That’s why, in addition to formal acknowledgement, you should prioritize following up each gift with sincere recognition. Strong recognition practices include:

  • Thanking donors with an email, card, or phone call promptly after receiving their gift, ideally within 24 hours and no later than a week after they contribute.
  • Building a donor recognition wall. It will serve as a permanent testament to the generosity of major donors.
  • Recording an appreciation video from members of your staff, volunteers, or people that you serve. This is your chance to speak directly to donors and spark an emotional connection.
  • Hosting donor recognition events that encourage larger contributions.
  • Featuring donors in your monthly newsletter to add human interest.

Recognition is your key touchpoint with supporters. Approaching this interaction thoughtfully will help drive meaningful support for your mission.

3. Create a post-gift stewardship matrix

The next step in your stewardship plan should be to create a post-gift stewardship matrix, with which, how and when your organization will communicate with donors based on the segments you identified earlier. Rather than spending excessive amounts of time deciding how best to target a specific group of donors, your nonprofit can use this tool to streamline the stewardship process and stay productive along the way.

To create your matrix, start with four main categories of communication: acknowledgement, recognition, reporting, and regular engagement. Then, decide which donors should receive those communications and put a timeline on it.

When given enough time and consideration, a stewardship matrix makes it easy for your nonprofit to communicate effectively with donors.

4. Share stories of impact

Creating engaging content for your donors is always a best practice. And it becomes even more important when the goal is to steward your supporters.

While donors value acknowledgment and recognition, they also want to understand what their gifts are helping to accomplish. Getting Attention’s guide to nonprofit storytelling says that an impactful story not only proves that your nonprofit is making change, but it inspires donors to keep giving.

Consider using the following storytelling techniques to convey your appreciation:

  • Have a central character. By focusing your story on a central character, your audience has someone (or something) to empathize with. Imagine you run an animal hospital. You could tell the story of Luna, a chocolate lab, who received life-saving surgery thanks to your donors. This main character is sure to tug at your donor’s heartstrings and convince them to give again.
  • Show a clear change. Every good story needs conflict and resolution. Introduce the problem and then show how donors helped to solve it. For instance, if your nonprofit builds schools in underprivileged communities, you could include the fact that you built 50 more schools in your monthly newsletter.
  • Speak directly to the donor. Give credit to the donors who help drive your mission forward by speaking to them directly. If your organization fights food insecurity, address your donors by saying, “This month we fed 100 new families, and we couldn’t have done it without you.” Make it clear that the donor is the core component of your success story.

Instead of just sending a bland thank-you email, describe the full journey of a gift. A thought-provoking and real story will be sure to engage the hearts and minds of your donors.

5. Promote more ways to get involved

Now that you’ve shown your appreciation for their donations, it’s time to engage your supporters in the other aspects of your organization. Let donors know that monetary contributions aren’t the only way to show support for your mission.

To encourage deeper commitment to your organization, incorporate these tactics into your stewardship efforts:

  • Host stewardship events, such as a gala or tailgate, that bring your donors together.
  • Create a giving membership program to offer special perks to committed donors.
  • Suggest related programs that donors may enjoy based on their previous engagement.
  • Spread the word about an upcoming project or program on social media.
  • Invite donors to your facility, so they can see the results of their gifts.

When donors are active participants and regular attendees, they are more likely to lend their support when you need it most.

6. Solicit feedback on post-gift stewardship

As part of effective recordkeeping and performance evaluation, your organization should regularly solicit feedback through surveys. Start by asking donors about their communication preferences. If most supporters indicate that they want fewer post-gift emails, then you could switch up your stewardship efforts by sending a handwritten card on the first of every month to recognize their most recent contributions.

According to iATs Payments’ guide to donation software, the right software can help you to document contributions and make note of any changes, such as improved retention rates or increased donation frequency. These insights will help measure the impact of your stewardship efforts. You can then adapt your stewardship matrix and recognition activities accordingly.


With solid post-gift stewardship, your organization will be well-equipped to retain support and raise funds for years to come. Although the process takes time, the long term ROI will be well worth your efforts.

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