Best Practices: Using Stewardship as a Cultivation Tool during Tough Economic Times
Dec. 11, 2009
Kay Hargrave, Senior Associate Director of Athletics, Auburn University presents this month's Best Practices.
In the midst of the current economy many are advising fundraising units to tighten budgets and scale back development activities. One school of thought, however, is to use this as an opportunity to ramp up efforts by providing stewardship to those who have supported over the years.
Most of us find ourselves in the mode of “asking, asking, asking” and we often don’t have a chance to appropriately thank individuals and families before asking again. The downturn in the economy has slowed donations but it gives us, as fundraisers, a prime opportunity to visit our people without presenting the next need. While we know that stewardship is an invaluable piece of the development process, we often don’t have the time or take the time to maximize this step.
The typical process of “working a prospect” begins with the initial contact/meeting, followed by cultivation, the “ask”, follow up to the ask and then ideally stewardship. During these times we can use stewardship contacts as a form of cultivation. If we do this correctly, once the economy rebounds, those capable will be primed and ready to give once again.
Stewardship as Cultivation
1. Use office visits, donor entertainment, birthday cards, phone calls and personal e-mails as ways to stay connected. Nearly every cultivation move can be used for stewardship purposes. If we get in the mode of “Thanking” rather than, or in addition to, “Asking” - we will see the return in the months to come.
2. Donor receptions and dinners that were formerly used for cultivation can be used to thank those who have supported your program over the years. Tailor comments from the athletics Director, head coach, etc. to thank donors rather than ask for support at during the function or event.
3. Remember that most of our donors aren’t looking for something “free” but rather something “exclusive.” Our donors want to see us as good stewards of their monies. If you can organize or coordinate an activity with the coach, AD, university president, most are willing to cover their own cost.
It’s a mindset. Use every situation to progress your relationship with your donors. If you approach it correctly, even a bad economy can ultimately result in dollars raised for your institution.