What, exactly, is good stewardship?

What is that thing called stewardship? Many people would have trouble defining it, even if they have a pretty good idea of what it is.

Speaking during the 2013 Bridge to Integrated Marketing Conference, Phyllis Freedman of SmartGiving and Charlotte Meyer of Ocean Conservancy offered these two observations about stewardship:

1. It is the most neglected function of fundraising, and it is not the end of the relationship but the beginning. Freedman and Meyer said good stewardship distinguishes an organization from its competitors, prevents gift revocation and is the right thing to do.

2. Surprising at it might sound, they said it is possible and even desirable to measure stewardship. They offered the following as items that can be measured:

  • Legacy donors increasing outright giving;
  • Repeat annuities;
  • Multiple planned gifts from legacy society donors;
  • The number of surveys returned; and,
  • The number of calls or visits.

Freedman and Meyer also suggested performing a data accuracy audit, looking at the following areas:

  • Typos;
  • The salutation field;
  • Same sex couples; and,
  • Couples in which the woman keeps her name.

They also said that stewardship rests on these pillars:

  • Thanks with relevance;
  • Provides opportunities for engagement; and,
  • Illustrates impact.