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Retention in individual giving: building lasting relationships with supporters

Now, more than ever, retention and stewardship in individual giving are essential.

In the world of fundraising, acquiring new supporters can be a daunting and resource-intensive task. However, the real challenge lies not just in bringing in new donors, but also in keeping them engaged and committed to your cause. This is where retention strategies come into play.

Retention is all about nurturing and maintaining the relationships you've built with your supporters.

But what about stewardship? How does it differ, and why are both of these concepts crucial for individual giving success?

Understanding the difference: retention vs. stewardship

Retention and stewardship are intertwined yet distinct concepts in the realm of individual giving.


Retention is primarily focused on keeping new supporters with your organization. It's about ensuring that those who have connected with your cause for the first time continue to be engaged, whether through financial contributions or other forms of involvement.

group of older mean and women on a beach smiling and taking a selfie


Stewardship, on the other hand, takes a longer-term perspective. It involves fostering emotional connections with supporters, inspiring them, and cultivating relationships that lead to sustained positive actions. Stewardship aims to transform one-time supporters into advocates who not only give but also actively promote your cause and participate in various ways.

Why do retention and stewardship matter?

Both retention and stewardship are critical for individual giving success. First and foremost, they contribute to increased income for your organization. Engaged and committed donors are more likely to continue their support, thus providing a consistent source of funding.

But it's not just about the money. Building a strong relationship with your supporters generates a sense of love and affinity for your cause. This emotional connection can turn supporters into advocates who spread the word about your organization and get involved in various capacities.

three multi racial young people laying on the grass smiling at the camera, with smart phones or tablet in hands

Practical approaches to retention and stewardship

Implementing effective retention and stewardship strategies requires careful planning and consideration. Here's a practical approach to help you navigate these important areas:

1. Set clear objectives

Define what you want your supporters to achieve – whether it's making repeat donations, engaging in volunteer work, or becoming advocates. Establish short-term and long-term goals to guide your strategy.


2. Understand your supporters

Gather as much information as possible about your supporters, their motivations, preferences, and communication habits. This insight will allow you to tailor your interactions and build stronger connections.


3. Prioritize and plan

Identify key products and actions that lead to the best lifetime value for your organization. Develop a journey that guides supporters through these steps, starting from their initial engagement.


4. Cultivate emotional bonds

Focus on loyalty, trust, commitment, respect, and making supporters feel valued and special. Use personalized communications to convey gratitude and demonstrate the impact of their contributions.


5. Engage with relevant content

Provide meaningful content that informs, inspires, and reinforces your supporters' connection to your cause. Share stories, updates, and achievements to keep them engaged.


6. Ask and thank

Incorporate well-timed asks for donations, volunteer work, or other forms of involvement. Always express appreciation and thank supporters for their contributions.


7. Flexibility and feedback

Understand that supporters' preferences and behaviors can change. Allow for flexibility in your approach and actively seek feedback to enhance their experience.


Measuring Success and Overcoming Challenges

While the journey to successful retention and stewardship may take time and resources, the results are well worth the effort. Measure the impact of your efforts by tracking attrition rates, response rates to asks, and engagement levels. Remember that simplicity and flexibility are key; avoid overwhelming supporters with too much information or too many asks.

 In the end, retention and stewardship are about nurturing relationships that go beyond financial contributions. They're about building a community of supporters who genuinely care about your cause. By understanding your supporters, setting clear goals, and delivering meaningful engagement, you can foster lasting connections that drive positive actions and advocacy for your organization.

Looking for more?

Watch our Retention and Stewardship for Individual Giving webinar on demand.

Woods Valldata have been partnering with charities to enhance their individual giving activity for over 40 years. Our response handling and fulfilment services are focused on your supporters’ experience and include technology that support retention and stewardship activities including automated communications via our SmartThank platform. Contact us today to find out more.


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