Give Donors Time and Gain Donations

Lunch with green olives, bread and olive oil served on old wooden table near window. “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 takes time and insight into what donors want, need, and value. To develop better relationships with your donors, consider hosting stewardship thank-you lunches.

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 sometimes, more board members. “We talk about their vacations, families, and whatever. No ask is made.” The food is catered by a luxury restaurant and served in the founder’s room. Meals can last a couple of hours.

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

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-generates results potentially for the rest of your organization’s life.