Three Tips to Keeping Scholarship and Non-Scholarship Donors Happy

November 16, 2017 Charlie Davenport

One of the most popular posts on the Sharing Solutions blog over the years has been “Three Ways to Make Scholarship Donors Happy” written by Michael Tackett, Client Success Manager at AcademicWorks.  Thousands of donor relation’s professionals have used this blog to help them implement tools and processes to improve donor stewardship practices among scholarship donors.  The AcademicWorks community has been asking us for some fresh ideas about how they can take their stewardship practices to the next level.  Check out these three tips to help you improve relationships with donors of all types!  

1. Think about donor acknowledgements differently 

 The majority of scholarship administrators ask for recipients to submit some sort of thank-you letter or acknowledgement to share with the donor.  Recently, we have seen a new trend in the way students are asked to complete donor acknowledgements.  Rather than asking recipients for a thank you letter specifically, students are asked to go online to answer very specific questions as part of their acceptance process.  For example:

  • What is your favourite memory of your time on campus?
  • How has this scholarship had an impact on you and your future?
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • Why did you decide to select your course of study?
  • Please provide a note of thanks to the donor who funded your scholarship.

The answers to these questions are then presented to the donor in a print or online format.  By asking students to complete this online questionnaire rather than simply a thank you letter, they are able to think more critically about their experiences and the real impact of the scholarship, creating a more heartfelt response from the student.  This language is also a great sample to use in campus marketing materials. (It is normally a good idea to ask students for permission to use these responses in marketing materials first. You can ask for permission as part of the online submission process.)

2. Share more information about donor funds 

We live in an information age where donors expect to hear from you about the impact their dollars are having. While many campuses have focused their stewardship efforts on top-end donors, they have struggled to retain and grow the donations from the donors who may only give $20-$100 a month. 

One way to help with this is to share updates with these donors, even if you do not have the capacity to print a beautifully crafted formal donor report for everyone.  Any project or initiative that donors contribute to should be shared with this community.

Has a donor funded building just laid the foundation?  Has a donor funded research project made a breakthrough?  Has the annual fund made an impact on the life of a student?  Updates could be shared in the form of pictures or short videos from a student about how the project will impact their education.  Share these stories frequently, even if they are sent as an email or as part of a personalized portal the donor can access to view the status of their funds.  Donors will be more likely to maintain or increase contributions if they know that their funds are making an impact and you recognize their specific contribution.  An email and picture is all you really need to keep a donor engaged.

3. Make it easy for donors to see historical impact 

It is easy for donors to feel good after seeing one thank-you letter or seeing a single donor report. Make it easy to see their total lifetime impact on students and your entire organization. The easiest way to do this is online with credentials that allow them to see giving and impact history.  Provide email reminders when updates are made so that donors remember to log-in and remind donors how important they are to you and your students! This scrapbook type of model will allow donors to feel good about their impact each time they interact with your site. 

We know that communicating with donors can be time consuming and easily can become overwhelming.  The best thing you can do is have fun, you can even ask your students for help in creating this content to share with donors!  Donors will love to see the impact they are making and will gladly retain and grow their financial contributions. Stay up to date with other ideas on how to improve donor stewardship and reporting efforts by receiving monthly emails with the latest from our Sharing Solutions Blog.


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