Why is Donor Stewardship Important?
Before we dive into why donor stewardship is important, let’s start with what it is.
What is Donor Stewardship?
Donor stewardship describes the intentional practice of building a relationship with givers. Why is this important? Because if we focus on giving apart from a person’s overall engagement with their church, we’re already on the wrong foot.
At its foundation, the church functions as a body (1 Cor. 12:27). This imagery illustrates the need for connectedness and working together to enable proper functioning of the church. It only makes sense to use that holistic perspective to address all areas of engagement, including giving.
Donor stewardship helps to ensure that giving feels like a partnership, not an obligatory bill-pay. Here are 4 building blocks of a donor stewardship that builds rapport with givers:
Consumers (and, thus, your members) have evolved. First, over the last 50 years, church attendance and giving rates declined significantly. Second, expectations are high and loyalty can shift quickly. Third, many givers struggle to meet the demands on their finances and the myriad choices for supporting the causes they care about.
In the area of giving, specifically, givers want to know how their donations are being spent. They get little to no longer satisfaction from simply funding a church building. Above all, they want their gifts to impact the community and the ministries that are near and dear to their hearts.
Donor stewardship involves openness and accountability with givers about the church’s finances and spending. It means being connected and developing trust and respect through mutual authenticity and vulnerability in other areas besides giving. Givers must feel heard, seen and valued. And when they feel “invested” in their church, they develop a desire to invest financially in it. When they aren’t invested, they leave.
As you teach financial stewardship to your members, is your church also practicing and modeling good stewardship of its resources, including your members?
As mentioned, givers today want to know the impact of a gift. When it comes to giving, they are far more generous and engaged when they can see how their gifts will help others.
The brands they interact with know this. eCommerce has shaped their expectations to be able to see what they’re spending money on … in vivid color. Sometimes even in 3D! They like reading all the details before they make a decision. They enjoy browsing, searching and clicking on what grabs their attention.
What if all this could apply to your giving page? (Try it for yourself here, at a Vision2 partner church’s Beyond the Tithe page.)
You can do show impact in multiple ways, including:
- An online giving platform with visual ministry designations
- Impact summaries in online giving acknowledgments and thank you emails, and annual giving statements
- Habitually sharing specific impact anytime you promote a ministry or project (even something like a capital campaign). This could include the number of baptisms/commitments, kids served, houses built, families fed, marriages ministered to this year.
The psychology of giving explains why people like to be generous. The brain’s pleasure circuits are activated by acts of charity. Pure altruism, a warm glow, a sense of agency and the approval of others motivate charitable giving. (Source)
Your donor stewardship strategy should ensure givers get the full effect they subconsciously desire. Apart from giving, convey appreciation by taking their feedback seriously. Show impact constantly. And above all, thank them often and well for gifts to the church (in addition to demonstrating impact.) Canned thank yous just don’t feel make people feel appreciated.
Successful brands like Netflix, Amazon and Google have conditioned all of us to expect personalized experiences online. Not only are we addressed by name, the content we are served up is tailored to our previous choices.
While this can border on creepy, nonetheless, it has become a baseline expectation for your givers. They are turned off by email blasts that are not relevant to them. They don’t want to hear that Step 2 of a class is starting up if they haven’t taken Step 1.
If one ministry leader knows something about them, they believe the “church” should know this. So to receive random communications that prove otherwise is disappointing. That’s why receiving a thank you email from “DO NOT REPLY” can feel like their church doesn’t know them.
Nurturing generosity in a digital world requires an effective donor stewardship strategy that lets you:
- Easily segment your list into giver categories
- Automate giving journey emails
- Tailor messaging to be relevant and personal
- Track responses
That means first time online givers get a welcome email with a video from the pastor. It can include additional information for getting plugged into the church. And likewise for other giver categories.
Vision2 Enables Donor Stewardship Strategies
Vision2 makes online giving a better, more personal experience at every stage of the Givers Journey. We enable back office staff to easily customize and automate personalized messaging to help make giving online as personal as giving in-person.
Learn how to ethically use your givers’ data to better minister to them. Download A Ministry-First Approach to Generosity: 26 Tactics for Using Giving Data to Better Serve Your Members.