The key strategy to turning direct-mail constituents into major-gift donors is stewardship, says Karen Osborne, president of full-service consulting firm The Osborne Group.
Stewardship is “more than sending out a thank-you note,” Osborne says. It is an addition to the suite of things an organization does through direct mail -- such as adding impact statements in a post-thank-you touch that communicate the difference a donor’s gift made.
“The thank-you is just, ‘this is what we promise to do with your money.’ Stewardship is, ‘this is in fact what we did with your money.’ It’s the delivery on the promise,” Osborne says.
For new donors, it can take the form of a phone call welcoming them to your organization’s family. For large organizations with tons of donors, segment the donors you steward in this way by gift level, so it’s manageable. Smaller organizations might be able to call every donor.
Osborne recommends sending donors a non-ask piece letting them know the outcome or result of their gift to your organization. She cites the example of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, a United Kingdom-based organization dedicated to stopping child abuse, which decided to add stewardship to its direct-mail program. The organization identified an older, boomer-aged woman with children and grandchildren who had been working with the organization for 15 years to be the voice of its stewardship. NSPCC sent a note from her in which she told donors who she was and that they would be hearing from her from time to time on what’s happening with the organization, how it’s fulfilling its mission and how the donors’ gifts are helping.
Along with this announcement, the organization sent a brochure with a picture of a small, stuffed bunny with a note that said, “Thank you again for giving comfort to a child.” Osborne says NSPCC saw an immediate jump in gifts after sending this mailing.