Rewriting the rules on stewardship

Rewriting the rules on stewardship

Guest Bloggers | 11 September 2018

It turns out that when you join the first ever stewardship course at the IoF, the room can get a little giddy. A trainer who is practically jumping up and down with excitement and 19 delegates who bring so much energy to the table its almost palpable.

We were all very much in the same boat. On a mission to get up to something. To push the boundaries of our thinking, challenge our assumptions and start to rewrite the rule books on stewardship. We also wanted this energy to move beyond those four walls, to spread into our organisations and out to the rest of the sector. Sharing our experience in this blog is part of our commitment to doing this.

Conversation was big on the day. It was beyond, “How can we create a better thank you?”, or ,"What singular action can I take as a fundraiser?". We started to consider stewardship as an organisation-wide system looking at all the supporter points of interaction with our charities and how many different teams impacted on stewardship. In fact, we began to redefine stewardship as the donor experience.

We began to see that to be supporter-centric was not about doing everything for the supporter that we could envisage as a charity. It was about really knowing a supporter group beyond what we currently can see, and responding to what they want not just about what suits us. We saw that it was also about making this previously fluffy concept of thanking and caring for a supporter something tangible that could be measured to prove our investment was paying off for the organisation and for supporters.

Since then, we have been whipping up a storm of conversation in our organisations. Cecila from Send a Cow moved straight into having a conversation with her major donor department when she got back to the office to learn about what they are doing. Her organisation is also taking a pause to work out what metrics it needs to be measuring in the first place and then putting them to work.

And thanks to Alice, RP Fighting Blindness is considering a stewardship working group to bring the whole organisation into the conversation and champion supporters getting the best experience at every contact. Alice’s organisation has also mapped supporter journeys and is undertaking a review of its database; looking at the best ways of accurately recording their supporter retention/attrition rates and LTV.

Sarah and Hannah from Alzheimer's Research UK had a similar action to take forward  to look at the supporter metrics they have access to, but weren’t familiar with, in order to show the need for stewardship and to track the impact their actions have on supporter loyalty and giving.

Adrienne from One to One Children’s Fund looked at how well her organisation was doing with supporter loyalty and had a real ‘yikes’ moment. Great news for the team is that Adrienne knows what she needs to do to improve it and she will be able to prove her impact.

One of the other key actions being driven by this group is furthering our understanding of our supporters. We thought we had it pretty well sorted, but saw how much further we could listen and understand what was really important to them. Not just what they were interested in hearing about or how they wanted to give, but what was really important to them on a human level.

Sarah is making sure her team at Alzheimer’s Research UK is getting trained on how to ask better questions and really listen to responses to build genuine relationships with supporters and Adrienne has already started to carry out in-depth interviews with her development board to really get to know them and work out what she needs to offer them to get them engaged with the fundraising process.

Annie Perez from MQ said, “We are being asked to think, look and discuss stewardship. We are being trusted to build something special”.

For fundraisers, there is nothing more empowering than seeing what can change and then getting your hands dirty back in your organisations to make it happen. When you know the reward is happier supporters, then you know you are creating a happier future for your organisation and all you support.

If you want to join our continued discussion about what actions are being taken and what lessons are being learned in turning stewardship into the supporter experience, then join us and future course graduates on the IoF LinkedIn Group where we want to keep up the momentum and dialogue. There is something special about knowing change is actually happening and being a part of it. Come and join us.


Co-authored by course attendees Alice Capper, Annie Perez, Clemency Horsell, Hannah Reynolds, Mandy Balfour, Sarah Luke, John Lamb, Jordan Hughes, Diane Palmer, Natasha Hopkins, Stephanie Lear, Adele Lees, Adrienne Gregory, Anna Brandenburger, and Cecilia Eggleston, and IoF Academy trainer and lecturer Kim van Niekerk


Find out more about the stewardship course and book your place


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