Starting Stewardship Conversation with - during the pandemic

In a past entry I stressed that we should not waste the tremendous opportunity the current Covid-19 Crisis presents to strengthen relations with our donors and stakeholders. The rationale behind this suggestion is engaging emotionally, practically and honestly with current and lapsed donors, volunteers, and others within our organization’s sphere of influence during this period improves their attachment to the mission and the likelihood of their long-term support once it ends.

Getting the conversation started as early and with as many donors as possible is paramount for this approach to yield fruits. Fortunately, many non-profit leaders have no problem speaking with donors and other stakeholders if no soliciting is involved. Better still most acknowledge that effective donor stewardship practices are a key factor in protecting their organizations’ future sustainability.

Yet few know how to kick-start the conversation tactfully and organically. Apprehension, silliness, embarrassment and discomfort are some of the unpleasant feeling people experience as they fumble for the appropriate phrasing to get the dialogue up and running.

“Should we thank them and reveal that we all know how much they’ve donated?” “Do I begin by assuring them that I am not going to ask them for more money right now?” “Can I lead by chatting about the weather?” What does one say to a casual acquaintance or a complete stranger when they are about to broach the sensitive subject of their financial support of an organization?

Indeed, the fine art of “breaking the ice” is difficult to craft even among veteran conversationalists. To help aspiring stewards hurdle this obstacle, here are some ice-breakers to launch their conversations with donors in the right direction:

“So that is great that you have been associated with this organization since 2006, how did you become involved in the beginning?”

“Tell me what the organization was like when you first became involved.”

“I understand that you knew so-and-so when she was Board Chair. What was she like to work with?”

“What are your impressions of how this specific program is being managed?”

“What has been the biggest change that you have witnessed within the organization since you first became involved?”

“In your time with the organization, what event or accomplishment are you most proud of being associated with?”

“Are there similar organizations to this with which you are involved?”

“In your estimation what do you feel this organization is doing right and where is there room for improvement?”

“What do you feel may be some obstacles the organization have yet to acknowledge?”

“Do you have any friends or family who are also involved with this organization and if so, what is their role?”

“What is one aspect about the organization that really appeals to you?”

“Is your line of work somehow related to this organization’s work?”

“Was there ever a time when you were not happy with the organization’s handling of a situation or crisis?”

“Of all the issues this organization addresses, which is the most important to you?”

About Mike Paquet

A fund development professional for 24 years, I help non-profits, charities and community groups throughout Canada build sustainable and passionate donor bases so they may strengthen and create positive change in their communities. By acquainting them with strategies that generate greater revenue, convert casual supporters into long-term stakeholders, and foster a giving and "fundraising-friendly" organizational environment, I position groups to deliver solutions that enhance the well-being for their communities.

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