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Donor Relations & Stewardship

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Voices:
CURRENTS Article Advice on handling an advancement colleague's inappropriate relationship with a donor; Colorado State's lessons on making a recipe video; and how to avoid errors in your database's list of deceased alumni.

5 Ways Board Members Can Support Fundraising
CURRENTS Article "I'm happy to do anything, except ask for money." Work in educational advancement long enough, and you'll probably hear those words from a foundation or governing board member. For some volunteers, asking for financial gifts produces anxiety—and most people are already dealing with pressure in their life. The last thing they need is more stress from a volunteer job. Discomfort with asking can be a major stumbling block for fundraising success. But the ask is only one step in a larger creative process that's intentionally managed to attract donor investment. Reluctant board members can still help our cause, even if they're not making an ask. Here's how to play to their strengths.

Talking Shop: We’re All Ducks
CURRENTS Article Vu Le is the brains and comedic voice behind the Nonprofit with Balls blog. As an executive director of a nonprofit, Le often writes from the perspective of a grantee, producing no-nonsense articles such as “9 annoying nonprofit trends that need to die.” His Seattle-based organization, Rainier Valley Corps, trains people of color for nonprofit leadership positions, so he has lots to say about improving diversity.

10 Reasons Why People Give (and 5 Reasons They Don't)
CURRENTS Article Generosity lights up the same part of your brain that responds to food and sex: Neuroscientists at the National Institutes of Health demonstrated this in a study using functional magnetic resonance imaging. When study participants acted equitably, they activated their brain's orbitofrontal cortex, which assesses rewards. Giving not only makes us feel good; it also makes us look good—and we're all concerned with what people think about us. Giving back can make you seem more responsible. Read on for additional reasons people give and to learn how research on generosity and behavioral economics can provide insights on how donors think.

Voices
CURRENTS Article Advice on endowment terms and a collection of tweets, quotations, advice, and more from the CASE Summit.

Thanking Donors
CURRENTS Article Are You Still Mailing Form Letters? Seven smart ways to say thank you.

The World's Best Stewardship Ideas
CURRENTS Article There are only so many ways to say thank you, right? Wrong! Currents has collected innovative and creative ideas from around the world for thanking and recognizing donors, reporting the impact of their support, and cultivating them for future giving.

Recognizing Donors
CURRENTS Article Consultant Lynne Wester shows institutions new ways to engage their most influential donors.

Cultivating New Gifts
CURRENTS Article There are so many ways to give.

Reporting Impact
CURRENTS Article There's more than one way to tell a story. Here's how four institutions report to donors on how their gifts make a difference.

Outlook: Tackling Touchy Topics
CURRENTS Article For fundraisers, discussing touchy subjects is like mentioning politics at a family gathering: We are not there to debate but to foster positive feelings. We are told that when a donor raises a touchy topic we should not be drawn in—much less offer our own opinion—but listen respectfully and find a way to move on. But should "listen but don't engage" always be our default position? Should we not strive to understand what donors think, even if their worldview makes us uncomfortable? By inviting donors to clarify their views—and by responding with how we see the issue, through the ideals of our institution—we can deepen our awareness of each other's values and arrive at a common goal.

Outlook: Stop "Thasking"
CURRENTS Article Another institution's tactic isn't necessarily a best practice or even a good fit for your organization's needs. Yet bad stewardship ideas continue to resurface. Donors' needs are changing, and donor relations needs to evolve if we want to maximize stewardship to help boost fundraising, transform donor relations, and give donors what they truly want. We must take risks, challenge old assumptions, and use data to determine best and next practices.

A Creative Assist
CURRENTS Article When working with donors, it's important to connect with the heart and the mind.

Twists and TurnsToward a Gift
CURRENTS Article Alumnus Michael Lang wanted to give to an overlooked area that fit his passion.

Stewardship and the Second Gift
CURRENTS Article Barbara Samper would drive through Salinas Valley and see migrant workers in the field and think, "How can I help their children obtain a college education?"

A Friend to the End
CURRENTS Article In 2014, Foxcroft, an all-girls boarding/day school serving 157 students in grades 9-12, received a transformative gift of $40 million from Ruth Bedford, class of 1932.

How I Closed the Biggest Gift of My Career
CURRENTS Article Five fundraisers share the dramatic inside stories of large gifts along with key insights from their experiences, from being creative to collaborating with colleagues.

The Loyal Treatment
CURRENTS Article Higher education can learn important lessons from corporate loyalty programs. So what are their secrets? And how can you cash in on them?

Outlook: Retention Is the New Acquisition
CURRENTS Article At most educational institutions more than 90 percent of all fundraising revenue comes from just under 10 percent of their donors. Many fundraisers mistakenly accept this as the new normal. Raising more money from fewer donors is not a sign of efficiency. It is a sign of poor donor stewardship. When institutions do not keep the donors they acquire, they sacrifice the future income those donors may have provided.

Outlook: Thank You Isn’t Good Enough
CURRENTS Article Educational fundraisers should steward annual giving donors, showing exactly where the gifts go, like they do major donors.

Demonstrating the Difference
CURRENTS Article Stewardship and donor relations officers, as well as other advancement professionals, must increasingly be able to answer one big question: How do we know that what we're doing is working? Underlying this question is a desire, sparked by an evolution in the thinking of donors, to help donors understand the effects of their gifts.

Seeing Both Sides
CURRENTS Article Development officers who give to their employers or favorite charity see first-hand how well those nonprofits treat donors, and they learn from those experiences.

Upward Bound
CURRENTS Article With the economy slowly mending, a number of colleges, universities, and independent schools are launching their biggest, longest-lasting, or first-ever campaigns. Campaigns that have recently launched are part of an evolution in which campaigns have become more donor-centric.

Out of Focus
CURRENTS Article For years, development officers have cultivated prospective donors by listening to their deepest desires. Now, development officers' work increasingly involves devising a strategy for aligning the donor's desires with the mission, goals, and needs of their institution.

Outlook: The Gift Grid
CURRENTS Article Henry E. Riggs, president emeritus of Harvey Mudd College and Keck Graduate Institute, argues that gifts exist along a utility continuum, from gifts of high utility, or great benefit, to gifts of negative utility.

Incremente sus relaciones
CURRENTS Article El procurador de fondos debe estar enfocado en ver la manera de mejorar e incrementar las relación con sus donantes.

Office Space: Growing Your Relationships
CURRENTS Article Instead of focusing on the bottom line, fundraisers should really be looking at how their relationships have grown.

Steering Through Stewardship
CURRENTS Article Stewardship should not be an afterthought in a healthy advancement operation. This article describes how stewardship can be an organizing principle, directing the essential activities of trust building, relationship management, and message delivery.

True Friends
CURRENTS Article Today's donors want deep connections with institutions that matter to them and share their values. If an institution engages constituents just to ask for money, it may miss out on true friendship with donors who want to be more involved.

Advancement Achievers
CURRENTS Article Profiles of selected 2002 Circle of Excellence winners

Away They Go?
CURRENTS Article Donor fatigue is real, even if your institution hasn't experienced it yet. Development officers talk about how they define the issue and keep it from becoming a problem.

In Plain Sight
CURRENTS Article Accountability involves many policies and procedures. The development professionals in this article talk about what accountability means in their institutions and what they do to ensure it through acknowledgment, stewardship, and other approaches.

The Pluto Principles
CURRENTS Article The quest for the planet Pluto teaches the need for persistence, research, strategic planning, and thinking out of the box--and why it's smart to sweat the small stuff. Astronomers discovered Pluto's existence by noticing wobbles in nearby planets. So if something in your development programs appears a bit off, it bears looking into. The discovery will be donors who want to make larger and more meaningful gifts.

Cream of the Crop
CURRENTS Article This article profiles a few of CASE's 2005 Circle of Excellence award winners in the fields of fund-rasing, special events, campaigns, marketing, alumni programs, stewardship, and advancement services operations.

All Hands on Deck
CURRENTS Article Turnover can create havoc in an advancement office, leading to holes in the institutional memory and breaking fragile links between donors and the institution. The advancement staff at the University of Massachusetts Lowell has reinvented its operations to create a team approach that strengthens long-term relationships and focuses staff members on securing cash gifts, especially major gifts. Using a structure of four interdisciplinary teams, advancement officers focus on offering relevant alumni programs and services, meeting face-to-face with donors, involving all staff members in gift cultivation, and maintaining an attitude of mutual respect across advancement.

Outgrowing the Annual Fund
CURRENTS Article Top-level annual donors deserve special attention to maintain their commitment. It’s often best to manage these donors within the annual fund office, but with special cultivation and stewardship methods such as in-person solicitation visits, personal letters, special events, gift clubs, and volunteer opportunities on campus boards or committees. Strategies such as challenge gifts can encourage them to increase their annual donations, and some of them will eventually make major gifts.

Charting a Course for Donor Stewardship
CURRENTS Article To develop consistency in gift stewardship among its many divisions, Virginia Tech created a stewardship manual outlining practices, policies, and expectations for the entire institution. Development officers conducted an internal audit and performed external benchmarking, then set goals and developed strategies to meet them. The resulting manual includes a mission statement, gift acknowledgement standards, donor recognition standards, and reporting standards.

The Rationale for Donor Relations
CURRENTS Article It’s the job of the donor relations professional to assure donors that their gifts will be used as they intend, and to do so in a way that motivates donors to give more. Institutions that realize that donor relations equals donor cultivation invest time and resources in this task. Barden describes the strategic use of the three main tools of donor relations: acknowledgement, recognition, and reporting.

Eternal Gratitude
CURRENTS Article Effective planned-gift recognition and stewardship can prevent donors from changing revocable gifts and help cultivate future planned and outright gifts. An initial problem is identifying planned-gift donors, who sometimes do not wish to make their plans known. Once you do identify them, you can thank them with personal visits, letters, or phone calls; by maintaining personal contact; by developing a planned-gift recognition society; by offering token thank-you gifts; by conducting special events for planned-gift donors; and by naming them in publications. For donors of life-income gifts, mail checks with a personal cover letter and conduct periodic "customer satisfaction" surveys. Endowment givers should receive annual letters from the beneficiaries of their gifts and be invited to annual endowment appreciation events.

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