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Stewardship is All Around Us: Why You Need a Seat at the Table

Title image with image of people at a conference table working with purple overlay and the blog post title.

When you think about donor relations and stewardship, what comes to mind? Thank you notes? Donor reports? Names on buildings or programs? Galas? Receptions? Gifts that surprise and delight? These are ALL donor relations and stewardship responsibilities but there’s SO much more:

  • Gift agreements

  • Endowment policies

  • Fund management

  • Financial aid and scholarships

  • Reporting

  • Engagement

  • Personalized recognition

  • Pipeline development

  • Loyal donors

  • Portfolio support/cultivation/stewardship

  • Gift administration

  • Records management/data integrity

  • Data analytics and metrics

  • Communications and design

  • Event planning

  • The list goes on…

Donor relations professionals have to be the most well-rounded and collaborative of any team in advancement. We bounce from the legalities of gift stewardship, to supporting recognition efforts for annual giving, to creating the list of commencement speakers, to tracking down the gift that established a 20-year-old endowment that hasn’t been awarded in years.

We are the most left AND right brained of our colleagues—and that's why we need to have a seat at the table. Because we’re working on multiple projects at the same time, we’re often aware of activities that are happening in a variety of places; moreover, we’re able to connect those dots for people that may only work in one space or with a limited scope. We’re thinking about the upstream and downstream effect of all processes, decisions, and ideas. We’re asking if the right people are informed of decisions or process changes and we’re sharing information up, down, across, and sideways to ensure that we are gaining necessary buy-in and partnership.

So, how do you get a seat at the table? You prove that you don’t just want, but require one. You make the case by showing up and connecting those dots time and time again. It’s asking questions and thinking a few steps ahead of everyone else. Here are a few things to consider when you’re trying to get a seat at the table:

  1. Everything is stewardship

  2. Stewardship doesn’t stop – it is constant and consistent

  3. Be everywhere and in as many conversations as possible

  4. Don’t be afraid to participate in donor conversations

  5. Be an expert

  6. Build relationships with as many teams as possible

Proving your value can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. You’re trying to be in the right place at the right time and hoping leadership understands what you bring to the table. However, when you’re collaborative, strategic, and thoughtful you can secure that seat and show up in a way that impresses not only your leadership but your fellow colleagues as well.



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