Development officers in non-profit institutions across the country are focused each day on one central priority: meeting their fundraising goals. These goals can range from the thousands of dollars to the billions with new programs, buildings, scholarships or research projects always in need of support.
For many institutions, major gifts play a large and critical role in helping meet those goals. Studies show that, on average, more than 88 percent of all funds come from just 12 percent of donors; and those 12 percent are typically giving those gifts in big chunks.
According to Bloomerang, long-term investment in and retention of donors are keys to a successful major gifts program. They state:
- Major gifts need time and a lot of contact to come to fruition: Most major gifts are made after five years of giving and cultivation.
- Acquisition is costly: Continually acquiring new donors can easily run 50 percent to 100 percent more than the dollars raised from them.
- Poor communication reduces donor retention: Donors tend to lapse if they don’t hear from an organization. They don’t know if their gift was needed or appreciated.
Stewarding donors for the gifts they have given is the right thing to do from a moral perspective, showing gratitude and closing the loop on the impact that their gift has made. Good donor stewardship makes even more sense from a financial perspective, because donor retention and conversion of annual donors to major donors through meaningful touchpoints has an exceptionally high ROI.
We built our stewardship software system, Impact, with these ideas in mind, asking ourselves, how can we make stewarding easier for fundraisers and equally meaningful for donors?
Too often, institutions just don’t have the resources at their disposal to provide personalized and impactful stewardship to donors in the lower ranges of the gift spectrum, and it is hard to justify additional resources unless you can prove that your stewardship activities help generate revenue. Unless you have a data-driven fundraising shop, those are tough arguments to make, even though most fundraisers know from experience that great stewardship can lead to more and larger gifts.
Stewardship resources are often reserved for an organization’s largest donors, while the donors who fall lower on the spectrum can get little to no personalized contact. For those shops that do engage in stewardship reporting at lower levels, it can often be a tedious and labor-intensive process, pulling reports together and checking (and double checking) for accuracy. There is often a disconnect between fund information (balances, earnings, and spending managed by Finance), impact information (scholarship recipients managed by Financial Aid), and the Development Office, which makes the stewardship process a lengthy one and perhaps make it feel overwhelming for smaller institutions to even contemplate. By the time reports are processed and sent, in a lot of cases, the data is six months to a year old. And that’s when things are going smoothly.
When Fundriver started designing Impact, it was our goal to make it possible to provide excellent stewardship to donors of all levels, all year long by creating a system that automates the collation of donor, fund financial and impact data. That automation makes it possible to steward more donors, more often, and frees Donor Relations staff and fundraisers from the cycle of frantic phone calls across departments and the whipping up financial reports on the fly, so that they can focus their energy on the important work of building relationships.