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Gratitude with Purpose

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by Mark DeWitt, Senior Philanthropy Advisor, Hope College

What is stewardship? There are many definitions that come to the same conclusion:  Gratitude with purpose.

Gifts to our organizations requires thoughtful and measured stewardship to express gratitude. Early in my career, my office adjoined the stewardship coordinator and I enjoyed sharing creative ways with her to connect with donors, sometimes in an extremely cost-efficient way, that give great joy to the donor and endeared them to sustain the mission. I’ve learned to lead with stewardship as the resulting joy creates opportunities to discuss the next gift or donor aspiration.

Whether it is a large or small gift, annual or special, planned or estate gift, your stewardship plan should be top of mind as you prepare to accept the gift. Does stewardship begin or end with the letter of acknowledgement and receipt? Certainly, your stewardship should be proportional to the capacity of your organization and the scale and frequency of the gifts. There are natural times throughout the life cycle of the gift, generally throughout the fiscal year, which offer opportunities to engage the donor in recognized and intentional outcomes.

I’m fortunate at Hope College to experience the fruits of giving firsthand. A simple picture of student benefiting from a donor’s generosity can be joy giving. A spontaneous note saying “thank you for making this academic year possible” can also be a reason to reach out. A link to a virtual lecture within the donor’s interests can be appealing. Also, the outcome of a basketball game shows that the donor is supporting a winning team.

How far do you reach back to celebrate gifts? Project anniversaries (5/10/15 year), milestones (Donor Y has been loyal for 5/10/15 years), and beneficiaries (Donor has supported X number of students through their scholarship) are reminders to celebrate impacts and outcomes with our donors.

Our intention is to meet the donor’s expectations and intentions within the framework of your organization’s mission and capacity while aiming to forge mutually beneficial and long-term sustaining relationships with authentic gratitude.