Donor Stewardship: Give Time
"We've found thank-you lunches to be very effective," shares 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 be part of your organization's inner circle. This takes time and insight into what donors want, need, and value. You can develop better relationships with your donors by hosting stewardship thank-you lunches.
Here are some details I learned as I gathered materials for 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 several hours.
Ms. Mitchell and other leaders see donors regularly at the Kravis Center's 800 yearly events. However most pre-show, after-show, and intermission interactions are brief.
Luncheons offer donors extended face time. One donor shared how much he enjoyed lunch and how nice it was not to be asked for money. The payoff for the Center, according to Diane Bergner, Senior Director of Development, includes high renewal rates, and loyalty. It increases the odds of the donors being goodwill ambassadors for the Center.
Given your hectic schedule, investing time to do donor-thank-you luncheons, either at your site or off, might seem like an impossible assignment. However, stewardship is a lot like exercise. Time invested in meaningful-to-the-donor relationship-building and stewardship gives you better results and more time.