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Four Phases for Philanthropy Stewardship

Does your stewardship need a refresher?  Your role as a philanthropy leader is to steward your interested donors into becoming your nonprofit champions.  Champions are committed to your mission, to making a significant difference.  Champions are priceless!

Through your stewardship, you provide inspiration, which leads to motivation.  You create ways for your champions to impact your mission.  You lead toward transformation in donors’ lives.  Let’s explore these stewardship phases.


First, let’s look at inspiring your donors.  You probably know and have experienced what studies show, that the driving force of giving decisions are based on emotion, not tax and financial strategies.

Inspirational stories create emotional connections.  Remembering the heartstrings between the donor and your mission will help your donors remember why they are giving.

The late Jerry Panas said, “Help your donors make the largest gift with the greatest joy!”  This is the right gift, at the right time, in the right way, with the right purpose.  The philosophy of joy is a solid foundation for philanthropy.

Your mission makes a difference! In addition to the “numbers” and “facts” be sure to include the emotional side of your mission.  Dr. Russell James, nationally renowned for his philanthropy research and publications, in his book The Storytelling Fundraiser said, “My work was always about philanthropy. But it was more about data than story. It was not about the ‘soft’ side of philanthropy. And then, something happened…  I was attacked by story.”  The inspiration of stories, stories about givers as well as your mission, connect with supporters. Heartstring connections develop and deepen.


Motivating your donors to action follows inspiration.  An insightful slogan for motivating donors can be, “Make Me Care.”  Andrew Stanton is a director, producer and writer for Pixar Films. During one of his Ted Talks he shared that the Pixar staff study what drives humanity. From their results, their characters and plots then evolve.  Stanton claimed the greatest commandment in storytelling/relationship building is these three words: “Make me Care.” Make me care on a deeply emotional level. Engage me at such a level to where a donor feels our mission, our challenges, our struggles, our joys and our victories!  Engaging with your donor on a more personal and emotional level motivates them to truly care about your mission.

Based on these mutual evolving connections, continue sharing with your donor prospects more about your fulfilling mission using impactful stories, testimonials and results to motivate them to give.


Inspiring and motivating evolves into impacting your donors, leading them to begin to seek out ways to have greater impact.  As they discover more about your mission and the difference they can make, they begin to feel a connection, a purpose for themselves.  They begin to think, “How do I fit into this mission?  In what ways could I support this mission?”  So, when your “ask” comes to them, they are ready with a yes.

Helping your donors make their mark based on a meaningful purpose is rewarding for them and for you as a gift planner.  They are adopting your mission into their plans for themselves and their loved ones.  They are impacted.


From mission related and impactful giving comes transformation.  Transformative relationships develop between donors and gift planners.  Your gift planning leadership role comes with the privilege of experiencing this, hopefully multiple times.

Have you thought in depth about who is transformed with these philanthropy gifts?

To learn more about how Crescendo can help you steward your donors, please contact us. We are here to help.

Sandra Henningsen

By Sandra Henningsen
Assistant Vice President, Integrated Marketing, Crescendo Interactive, Inc.

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