Nonprofits depend on loyal donors to receive sustainable support for their work. This means your organization must provide a positive donor experience, not just in one event or campaign, but over the course of their involvement with your nonprofit.

While communication metrics and donor feedback are good places to start stewarding donors, your nonprofit may overlook a valuable resource for enhancing donor stewardship: your bookkeeping data. This information is a powerful tool for communicating donor impact and establishing a plan to further their involvement over time.

Let’s explore five ways your nonprofit can leverage its bookkeeping data to enhance donor stewardship.

1. Tailor reporting and impact updates

While accurate financial reporting is crucial to avoid losing your 501(c)(3) status, it’s also a helpful way to show donors the impact of their contributions. Incorporate data-driven updates into your communication cadence to remind donors of their important role in furthering your mission.

Use the following bookkeeping data to send tailored, relevant reports to donors:

  • In-kind contributions: Highlight the importance of a donor’s noncash gift by tailoring an impact update to address their specific in-kind donation. For example, donors who contributed bags of dog food to an animal shelter might want to know how many animals were fed with their donation.
  • Restricted donations: When donors place restrictions on their gifts, they’re often passionate about the project or program they funded. Provide specific program updates detailing how you used their funds in ways that aligned with their restrictions. This should include key impact analytics, such as measurable outcomes and fund allocation, to demonstrate a program’s effectiveness.
  • Fundraising event revenue: Share event recaps with both attendees and contributors, including the total revenue generated compared to the event’s fundraising goal. Break down this data into specific sources of revenue, such as the amount raised from ticket sales, to draw a direct connection between your fundraising success and donors’ involvement.

After sharing the hard numbers, prompt donors to further their involvement by explaining what else could be possible with their continued support.

2. Personalize acknowledgment and recognition

Donor appreciation is the cornerstone of stewardship. When supporters feel valued by your organization, they’ll be more likely to stay connected through increased giving or other involvement opportunities.

Use individual donation data to personalize donor acknowledgments. eCardWidget’s guide to thanking donors recommends the following best practices for valuable recognition, which can be enhanced with bookkeeping data:

  • Be prompt. Accurate bookkeeping records will help you track when and how often donors give. Use this information to send timely messages of appreciation that note their giving frequencies for even more personalized gratitude.
  • Center their impact. Save the discussion of your nonprofit’s work for project updates—appreciation messages should keep donors’ contributions at the focus. Consult your bookkeeping data to learn about their involvement over time and specify their impact in your recognition efforts.
  • Match the donation amount. Analyze your records to identify donors’ giving histories and show your appreciation accordingly. For example, donors who have increased their giving amounts by 5% each year should receive increasingly meaningful signs of appreciation from your nonprofit.

Infuse your existing donor appreciation efforts with bookkeeping data to show supporters that you’re paying attention to their unique contributions. You can also supplement this data with details from your constituent relationship management (CRM) system or donor database to further personalize messages. For example, you may notice a donor contributed $50 on their 50th birthday and send a birthday card thanking them for their generosity.

3. Provide more transparent financial reporting

Beyond fulfilling your obligation to report financial activity to the IRS, transparency is an effective way to demonstrate your nonprofit’s trustworthiness to donors. This bolsters donors’ confidence in your organization, making them more likely to stay involved with your nonprofit and continue giving.

There are several ways you can exhibit trustworthiness, such as making your Form 990 publicly available or creating a detailed annual report. Outsourcing your bookkeeping needs to an external professional is a key strategy for strengthening donor trust and streamlining your bookkeeping responsibilities.

According to Foundation Group’s bookkeeping guide, a professional bookkeeper can help with:

A magnifying glass pointing to the roles of a nonprofit bookkeeper, which are listed in the following text.

  • Recording transactions
  • Reconciling bank accounts
  • Providing financial statements
  • Assisting with 1099 preparation
  • Giving advice and counsel as needed

With these services, professional bookkeepers help nonprofits achieve financial compliance and accurate record-keeping. This way, you’ll have all the (accurate) data needed to transparently report your financial activity to donors, such as how their donations were used or why your fundraising goal is set at a certain amount.

Additionally, some bookkeepers dedicate a section of their website to discuss their clients and the financial success they’ve been able to achieve. A bookkeeper’s case study can spread the word that a trustworthy professional handles your nonprofit’s books, so potential constituents know there’s accountability.

4. Choose clear stewardship touchpoints

Donor information stored in your bookkeeping system is like a window into supporters’ giving motivations and preferences. Using this data, your nonprofit can establish actionable touchpoints for stewardship that help you standardize the process of deepening donor involvement.

Create a donor stewardship plan that aligns with your bookkeeping process to standardize engagement across your supporter base. This plan could include the following steps:

  1. Segment donors based on their giving levels and histories to determine which stewardship activities would best engage each group of supporters.
  2. Develop a communications plan based on your donor segments, including the content and frequency your messaging should follow to move donors up the giving pyramid to higher donation levels.
  3. Collect donor feedback to contextualize your bookkeeping data so that you can better understand why donors give and what would influence them to continue giving.

With this information, your nonprofit can proactively and consistently connect with donors to increase their engagement. This allows you to send targeted appeals and updates that resonate with donors individually and inspire their recurring support.

5. Identify involvement opportunities

The end goal of stewardship is to deepen a donor’s involvement with your organization and retain (or upgrade) their support over time. Meeting this goal requires offering a reasonable call to action that tells donors exactly what their next step should be.

Use your bookkeeping data to analyze donors’ giving patterns, including the frequency, timing, and amounts of donations. Supplement this data with past engagement information from your CRM to identify highly engaged donors who likely have an affinity for your organization’s cause and would be willing to give their support in other ways.

Then, create a strategy for marketing other opportunities, like volunteer roles or advocacy campaigns, to these donors. Incorporate educational information, such as the definition of a 501(c)(3) organization or the inner workings of your nonprofit’s operations, to help donors feel like they’re truly a part of your team.

Equipped with valuable insights from financial data, your nonprofit can let data drive its decision-making to create actionable plans for reaching your goals. As you work on improving your approach to donor stewardship, your bookkeeping data may also guide many other initiatives if you thoroughly and accurately record your financial activity.

About the Author

Greg McRay

Greg is the founder and CEO of Foundation Group, one of the nation’s top providers of tax and compliance services to nonprofits. Greg and his team have worked with tens of thousands of nonprofits for over 25 years, assisting them with formation of new charities, plus tax, bookkeeping, and compliance services. He is credentialed as an Enrolled Agent, the highest designation of tax specialist recognized by the Internal Revenue Service. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, Greg and company work with charities and nonprofits all across the country and worldwide.

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