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Do You Steward Donors or Show Them Gratitude?
Philanthropic Trends

Dawn Robinson, CFRE, Cramer & Associates, Senior Consultant

I recently listened to a podcast about the importance of gratitude in the corporate sector, and it sparked my thinking about how gratitude is expressed in the philanthropic sector.


We’ve all seen some form of this graphic about the donor cycle, but the Cramer Team has replaced “stewardship” with “gratitude.”


Gratitude, at its core, must be sincere and authentic. Who hasn’t received the typical form letter that states, “Thank you for your gift of $25, and for tax purposes our Tax ID/EIN number is located below.” Gee, thanks!


Then, you see on company grant applications a question that asks, “How will the corporation be recognized?” Most nonprofit professionals include tactics like social media posts, listings with their logo on websites, or a press release. These methods might be necessary but are very transactional.


The Cramer Team recently worked with a nonprofit who said they had a “Stewardship Manage.” But when we met with their team and dug a little deeper, this person was primarily responsible for making sure donor information was updated in their CRM and gift receipt letters went out in a timely manner. Technically a database manager, right?


So, are you stewarding your donors or truly expressing gratitude to those who support your organization?


When we work with nonprofits on creating and implementing an integrated Marketing & Development Department, “gratitude” is always front and center, as we believe gratitude is very different than stewardship.


Let’s also think about what’s more important to the donor… the tax receipt letter is important, but expressing gratitude is also just as important. Picking up the phone and making a personal phone call or dropping a handwritten note in the mail are expressions of gratitude. There must be time in each and every day for these sincere practices.


To make gratitude stand out, it might be beneficial to have a Gratitude Manager to ensure that authentic, personal gratitude practices are being integrated into your organization’s day-to-day operations. These sincere acts are the very essence to building loyal and long-term supporters.


Finally, organizations that create a culture of gratitude permeating throughout are the very organizations, grow their donor base, keep their loyal donors engaged, and raise the profile of their mission. From the person on the frontlines who works with your donors and the receptionist (or what we like to call, your Director of First Impressions), to your Finance Director and all the way up to your CEO/Executive Director; everyone needs to understand and practice gratitude on a daily basis and make it a routine.


We’d love to hear if you have a stewardship program or a gratitude program; and how do you differentiate the two?

Cramer & Associates is a nationally recognized philanthropic consulting firm that has been serving nonprofit organizations, corporations and foundations since 1987. Our full-service firm offers clients a wide range of services, including feasibility studies, campaigns, strategic planning, board training, development audits, events, executive searches and much more. The Cramer Team identifies organizations’ strengths and opportunities and develops campaigns that succeed, empowering organizations to impact their communities.

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