Using Technology for Stewardship

by Kevin Martone, Technology Program Manager, JCamp 180

Did you have parties before eVite allowed you to invite people for free online? Did you pay your bills before banks offered you online banking? Of course you did. The technologies only made the processes cheaper and easier. Similarly, your organization has been fundraising and building relationships with donors and prospects for years, even before the computer!

Stewardship - like cultivation - is really about relationships. Technology will never be used as the primary channel for stewarding your donors. But, like fundraising in general, technology can be used to make your nonprofit's stewardship efforts more effective and efficient. The following are a few examples of how technology can help you steward your donors:

  • Track donor values and interests

    Donor Management Systems are great for capturing and reporting on what your donors and prospects care about the most. Why did they support your last capital campaign? What is their most indelible memory of camp? Are they married? Have kids? What other causes do they support?

    All of this information - if it is stored consistently and easily accessible - can help your organization build stronger, more meaningful relationships with your donors. Think about how much more meaningful your conversations are with someone who really knows you. Or simply with someone who listens and then is able to recall those details at a later conversation. Technology can help you retain those details.

  • Track and schedule contacts with donors

    A donor management system can track all contacts with donors - personal meetings, phone calls, emails, etc. This allows your organization to easily determine who has been in touch with a donor…and when. If used consistently, your organization will be able to ensure donors are contacted in the appropriate way and frequency.

    Remember that a system is only as good as the data entered. Anyone involved in Stewardship activities must be trained to report back with updated contact information, details about meetings, and other information to be tracked in the system.

    Most donor management systems will also allow your organization to assign future contacts with a donor to a specific person. This makes it even easier to ensure relationships are being built effectively.

    And Board Management tools can help your Board coordinate donor/board member "assignments" and share documents to help them track their contacts effectively.

  • Be transparent about how donors' gifts are being used

    Donors expect transparency more and more. They want to know how their gifts have been spent and what your organization plans to do with future donations. Your organization's website and social media channels are perfect places to share detailed financial information, annual reports, and more specific details about donations. For example, for a capital campaign, pictures of buildings in process or finished will go a long way. For scholarship campaigns, pictures of recipients, parent testimonials, and total amounts given to a specific number of campers would be helpful for donors to understand the impact of their generosity.

    eNewsletters also offer the opportunity to inexpensively send regular updates to donors about the status of fundraising campaigns and how those funds are being used. These eNewsletters can be personalized in a limited fashion - by including a salutation field with the donor's name, or even including a short personal note in the text of the eNewsletter.

    For example, Herzl Camp recently sent out an eNewsletter with pictures of a new building being constructed at the camp. Information about the construction was offered, as well as another thank you for the donors' help. Finally a subtle link to give an additional gift was made available at the end of the eNewsletter.

  • Ensure timely acknowledgements are sent to donors

    Stewardship is far above and beyond thanking your donors. However, sending timely acknowledgements is one crucial component of good stewardship. Donor Management Systems can help your organization quickly report on recent gifts, and even track which gifts have yet to be acknowledged. And simple mailmerges with MS Word can allow your organization to easily create and print personalized thank you notes in bulk.

    Always keep in mind that the technology is there to help you with these processes. Stewardship can only be successful with the right processes and people in place to build and retain your donor relationships.

How have you used technology to steward your donors?