Summer is wrapping up and the first indications of fall have started to arise. Faculty are back in teaching mode. Students are filling the halls. Alumni are visiting campus.

With all of the changes, it can be comforting to settle back into your standard routine. But, with the new academic year, perhaps now is the best time to switch up your strategy and pay attention to one of the most critical parts of donor development—stewardship. This important piece of the process not only provides donors with a meaningful Return on Philanthropic Investment (ROPI), but it can also be one of your most powerful cultivation tools.

A few weeks after we moved into the new building, I was walking down the hall and was suddenly overcome by what a fantastic facility this is. I called the donor and left a message on her answering machine about my feelings and my appreciation to her and her family for making this facility possible. The next morning, I had a message on my voicemail that she wanted to talk to me about what we needed her to do next.

—College Dean

When this dean called the donor, he simply wanted to thank her for her contribution. However, in doing so, he opened the door for a conversation about her next contribution and was able to further engage her in the college’s philanthropic mission.

While voicemails and conversations are great, it’s important to consider other stewardship avenues, as well. One of the most effective and compelling ways to inspire deeper commitment is through sharing the personal experiences of the people who have been forever changed by your institution and its important work. A great way to do this on a larger scale is to incorporate video into your stewardship strategy, as the organizations below have successfully done.

This stewardship video was developed for the University of Florida to thank current donors and inspire new/continued support for the Florida Opportunity Scholarship Fund. This powerful piece demonstrates how the program changed the recipients’ lives, how they plan to leverage that change for good, and how philanthropic support has made it all possible.

This stewardship piece was created for the University of Iowa to recognize and thank the members of the Fraternal Order of Eagles for their $25 million commitment to diabetes research at the university. Featuring university leadership, researchers, and the families impacted by the research taking place at the University of Iowa, this video provides progress updates and illustrates the promise of hope made possible by the generous contributions of the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

This year, how will you strategically utilize stewardship to create meaningful ROPI and continue deepening commitment with your donors? Start a conversation on social media to share your thoughts and strategies.