Donor Stewardship: Give Donors Time & Gain Donations

Food preparations for lunch with special donors“We’ve found thank-you lunches to be very effective,” explains Judith Mitchell, CEO of the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida. “The luncheons are only to build relationships.”

Stewardship is more than just saying thank you. It’s more than just cultivating the next gift. It’s inviting donors to join your organization’s inner circle. This move takes time and insight into what donors want, need, and value. To develop better relationships with your donors, consider hosting stewardship thank-you lunches.

The Details

Here are some details I learned while writing 7 Nonprofit Income Streams. The Kravis Center’s leaders invite donors after they give large annual gifts or when donors complete pledges. Besides the donor or donor couple, other lunch attendees include the CEO, the board chair, development staff, and more board members. “We talk about their vacations, families, and whatever. No ask is made.” A luxury restaurant caters the meal in the founder’s room. Meals can last a couple of hours.

While Ms. Mitchell and other leaders regularly encounter donors at the Kravis Center’s 800 yearly events, most pre-show, after-show, or during intermissions interactions are brief.

Luncheons offer donors extended face time. One donor shared how much he enjoyed the meal and how nice it was not to be asked for money. According to Diane Bergner, Senior Director of Development, the payoff for the Center includes high renewal rates and loyalty. Lunches increase the odds of the donors being goodwill ambassadors for the Center.

How Can You Use this Idea?

Given your hectic schedule, investing time to do donor-thank-you luncheons might seem like an impossible assignment. However, stewardship is a lot like exercise. Time invested in meaningful-to-the-donor relationship-building generates results for your organization.

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Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis Consulting guides executive directors and CEOs to generate the resources, boards, and support they need to make remarkable progress on their missions. As the award-winning thought-leader, advisor, and founding principal of Karen Eber Davis Consulting, Karen helps nonprofit leaders get answers, generate revenue, and grow their mission. Davis is known for her innovation and practicality based on her work with or visits to over 1,000 nonprofit organizations and her experience leading board and team events. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.