Donor Stewardship Resolutions & Tools for the New Year

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The new year is the perfect time to make resolutions for your monthly donor stewardship strategy. In 2024, donor retention is likely to be a critical factor in maintaining charity fundraising revenue due to the impact of high inflation and rising costs on donors’ wallets. A report released by Canada Helps in 2023 found that the overall percentage of Canadians who donated to charities dropped to 28 per cent from 36 per cent between 2010 and 2022 among individual households. At the same time, demand on many charitable sectors has increased such as on food banks, shelters and humanitarian organizations.

It is often said that it costs less to retain a monthly donor than to find a new one. In fact, according to Oxfam International’s Telefundraising & Retention Specialist, Alex MacKain-Bremner, it costs about ten times more to acquire a new donor than to retain a current one. Alex stresses the importance for charities to know not only the cost to acquire a new donor but also the cost to retain donors.

January is a good time to conduct stewardship activities since many donors may have been generous over the holiday season and ensuring they receive a proper “thank you” is important. Good stewardship goes beyond just expressing gratitude or demonstrating a donor’s impact. Offer some sort of engagement with a call-to-action, a means to get involved, or by seeking donor feedback. Ultimately engaged donors will be more committed to your mission and as a result will become more loyal.

With all that in mind, let’s review some donor stewardship methods that can engage monthly donors, thank them appropriately, and ultimately improve their long-term retention and loyalty.

Welcome and Loyalty Calls

Calling a donor shortly after they have just signed up may seem superfluous. After all, they just agreed to donate. However, donor cancellation is often the highest in the first few months of giving due to “donor’s remorse”, regret that they agreed to the long-term monthly commitment. This is especially true with face-to-face acquired donors who tend to have very high attrition. A practice that Oxfam Intermon (Oxfam in Spain) attempts is a welcome call shortly after donors sign up – within 24 to 72 hours – in order to thank the donor and verify their contact details and gift amount.

In addition, Oxfam Spain has also tested a “Loyalty Call” at month 2 or 3 of the donor’s tenure. Alex describes this call as not only focusing on demonstrating the donor’s impact but also on listening to the donor. By listening to donor concerns, Oxfam phone agents have the opportunity to improve their long-term retention by offering a gift downgrade or even a donation pause, if necessary. If donors have received both calls, monthly donor retention improves up to 80%.

Reactivation Calls

Despite all our best stewardship efforts, there will always be monthly donors who end up lapsing. Again, it costs much less to reactivate a lapsed donor than to find a new one. In Stratcom’s experience, 20 to 30 percent of lapsed donors can be reactivated if called within 12 months. But the longer a donor is lapsed, the harder they are to reactivate so reactivation calls should be made on a regular and timely basis. In fact, according to Alex, Oxfam in various countries such as Great Britain, Italy, France and Ireland tries to call donors within 1 or 2 months of lapsing. Besides asking donors to reactivate, Oxfam phone agents also try to find out why the donor lapsed.

Upgrade Calls

It seems counter-intuitive that another appeal for money might improve monthly donor retention. However, according to Alex, testing by Oxfam in Great Britain and Ireland shows that if donors receive an upgrade call before month 13, their retention can be improved on average by 10%. For donors who agree to the upgrade, their retention increases by 18%. Even more interesting, donors who receive a call but refuse an upgrade also experience a retention boost of 5%. Why you might ask? It’s because these donors have a conversation with a real person from Oxfam, during which they have been thanked and the impact of their gift has been acknowledged and demonstrated as part of the upgrade call. This is a true testimonial of the power of telemarketing in providing human rapport and inspiring donor loyalty.

Telephone Town Hall

Often described as a private call-in radio show, a telephone town hall (TTH) is a large-scale engagement tool. Up to fifteen thousand participants can join a TTH. Donors can be invited in advance by email, text, or voice message and will automatically receive a phone call at the beginning of the TTH. By simply accepting the call, they join the TTH but can hang up at any time. The TTH is moderated by a host and can be joined by one or more speakers. This is a great opportunity to provide donors with an in-depth understanding of the charity’s latest accomplishments and impacts and show donors the significance of their contributions. Speakers can include field workers, campaigners, medical experts, scientific researchers, or even beneficiaries. The panel is a great format for dialogue and donors can participate as well. By using the phone keypad, they can request to speak. All requests are vetted by a bank of Stratcom agents and the moderator can select who to allow to speak.

Questionnaires can also be conducted during the TTH. The moderator can ask a question to the audience, who are prompted to answer using their keypad buttons. TTHs can also be recorded and offered for playback on the charity’s website and in email newsletters.

Broadcast Voice Message (BVM)

The broadcast voice message is a highly effective and inexpensive means to reach your donors by phone. Especially if recorded by a well-known individual, a BVM can be a very intimate and memorable means of saying thank you. Imagine your celebrity ambassador sending a message of thanks for a donor’s 2023 monthly gifts. And BVMs don’t have to be one-way – questions can be asked on the recording and answered by donors using their phone keypad, adding a further layer of engagement.


Text broadcasts are a highly engaging and inexpensive means of sending out a stewardship message. With an open rate of 95%, you can be sure most of your donors will see it. There are many ways to use text for engagement. Surveys, quizzes, and videos are all great engagement tools that can be shared with donors via a shared link. If you have a petition, text broadcasts are a very effective way to get your supporters to sign it.


The new year is a great chance to review our donor stewardship habits and make resolutions for the year ahead. The fundraising landscape is constantly evolving and reviewing the engagement tools available can help take your donor stewardship to a new level. Oxfam International’s use of calling in innovative and thoughtful ways, like timely welcome and loyalty calls, reactivations outreach, and strategic upgrade calls, offer solid insights. Telephone town halls can offer donors an unparalleled sense of community while broadcast voice messages and text broadcasts add a personal touch. Which practical tools will you be turning to this year to foster meaningful and sustained support?

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