Thanking and Stewarding: Suppose She Says Yes…Now What?

by Jack Hornor, Jack Hornor Consulting

The importance of saying thank you

  • When a prospect says yes, say "thank you" immediately. Follow up with a thank you letter which includes details about the gift (timing, purpose, etc.) so that there is no doubt about the donor's intent. Handwritten notes from board or staff members are great.
  • Find out how the donor would like to be acknowledged. Does she want to be included in your annual report, and if so, does she want the level of the gift stated? Does she want any public acknowledgement, or does she dislike public acknowledgement? Find out whom she wants to know about the gift, and in what ways. Some people value their privacy very highly; others don't. In all cases, donor-centered fundraising means that you are guided by the donor's wishes.

Follow-up & the role of staff

  • If a volunteer meets with a prospect who makes a gift, the volunteer's responsibilities include reporting back about the conversation. Written notes should be placed in the donor's folder.
  • Follow-up needs to be discussed soon, not put off. What are the appropriate next steps with a particular donor? Who will carry them out? Who will oversee this process? If your organization has fulltime development officer, then probably this person will have the responsibility for overseeing the work of others. If not, you need to spend time working out a system for this to happen.
  • The most important thing is to have clarity about expectations. Is the volunteer solicitor now expected to maintain contact with the donor? Is the volunteer expected to solicit the donor again in a year's time?

Before the gift you cultivated, now you steward

  • We cultivate a prospect in the hopes of receiving a gift. Once we've been given the gift, we have two stewardship responsibilities. To be a steward means to care for something that we value. In this case, we value both the gift and the donor.
  • We have a duty to use the gift responsibly, which is also our responsibility to the donor. This means managing our organization in an ethical, responsible way. Large gifts are often designated for a particular purpose, and good stewards ensure that the purpose of the donor is adhered to. If there is a change in circumstances (e.g. another source of funding has been lost and the program must be substantially changed or even shut down), we let the donor know. Sometimes this means a donor will ask for the gift back; sometimes it doesn't. But donor-centered fundraising means we are guided by the donor's wishes.
  • We also have a responsibility to the organization, which is to care for the donor in such a way that she will continue to value and support our work. We must learn how often the donor likes to be contacted, and in what ways. We must find out what kind of information the donor likes to receive, and when it is appropriate to have a conversation about making another gift. The best way to find these things out is to ask the donor.

Originally published by Jack Hornor in 2011. Reprinted here with permission.