Stacey Schwab, Account Director  ●  9/15/2021

Donor Stewardship Strategies for Times of Crisis or Disaster

The Ringer Featured Image Disaster Fundraising Stewardship

Donor stewardship refers to outreach that seeks to build relationships with your donors, after a donation has already been made.

Stewardship is critically important to a nonprofit’s strategy because it improves donor retention rates — the percentage of donors who continue to give to your organization after their first gift. In fact, research suggests that donors stay loyal to nonprofit organizations more often when that nonprofit has put in the effort to build a relationship with them.

Even in times of disaster/crisis, it is still crucial to properly steward your donors.


Here are two stewardship strategies that you can implement in any situation:  

1. Schedule “Face-to-Face” Meetings

Although social distancing guidelines may prevent nonprofits from having in-person meetings with their donors, this doesn’t mean you can’t have face-to-face interaction.

With technology, you have the ability to meet with your donors virtually using platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.

(In case you missed it: Here are 7 tips to engage your donors when you can’t be face-to-face.)

We recommend you schedule these meetings with donors who carry the most value with your nonprofit.  During these conversations, you can and should:

  • Check in on the well-being of the donor.
    Many of your donors (or folks they know) have been affected by the pandemic and may be suffering themselves.
  • Discuss the actions your nonprofit organization has taken in response to the pandemic.
    Provide specific examples and the impact that’s been made.
  • Share how the donors can get involved.
    This includes volunteering, and providing in-kind or monetary donations, should they be equipped to do so.


2. Communicate Donor Impact

When donors do provide a gift to your organization, it’s essential that your nonprofit not only acknowledge those individuals, but also communicate the impact of their contributions.

First, you should immediately acknowledge the gift that the donors provided via a call and/or thank you note.  Thanking donors is not an afterthought.  It’s a step in the stewarding process that positions your organization to continue to be a priority for your donors.

Acknowledgments connect with the donor’s brain by reminding them of the amount they gave, the date of their gift, and that their donation is tax-deductible — but more importantly, it lets them know they are affecting real change through their generosity.  Don’t forget to include specific examples of how the donor’s gifts have impacted your clients (i.e. individuals who were helped).

This is especially true in times of crisis or disaster when you may be asking for donors to go above and beyond what they normally give, for a very specific purpose.

When you communicate the impact of a donation, you can do so:

  • Before the donation.
    This is when you communicate the potential donation amounts directly on your donation page or website.  This works especially well if you offer specific, suggested giving levels.  For example, you may explain that a $100 donation will provide 42 meals, $200 will provide 84 meals, and $500 will provide 210 meals.
  • After the donation.
    After a donor has contributed to your organization, we suggest you follow up with them to show additional appreciation for their gift (via phone call or thank-you letter).

    As you do so, tell them about the incredible impact their generosity has had, perhaps with a specific example.  For instance, you may indicate, “Your contribution of $150 helped provide meals for a week to Maria and her two children, who were struggling to make ends meet.”


Stewardship is essential — especially during times of crisis or disaster.  It helps your nonprofit raise more in your current fundraising strategy and sets up long-term success with your donors.  With these strategies in place, your organization can survive the crisis/disaster with an overall strengthened support base.



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