Exclusivity: The answer to millennial donor stewardship

Donor expectations for stewardship are at an all-time high, yet traditional stewardship touches have lost their appeal. In the past, stewardship for repeat donors focused on recognition certificates and exclusive trinkets, but 72% of individuals discard these items as soon as they arrive. Yet millennials still want to be recognized for their giving, despite not wanting more “things.”

The rise of ROE (return on experience)

Millennials increasingly seek exclusive experiences. Return on experience (ROE) has surpassed return on investment (ROI) as a measure of successful spending.

Return on experience

When millennials invest in experiences, they seek opportunities with limited availability and short time frames—and then they share them across social media. This search for exclusive, shareable moments is exemplified by the popularity of pop-up restaurants, art installations, and music festivals. Millennials bring these same expectations to their interactions with nonprofit organizations.

Group engagements with exclusive appeal

The future of stewardship will rely on creating experiences that meet millennials’ desires for exclusive experiences.

To give donors exclusive yet scalable access to university leaders, Boston College created the Presidential Consultation Program. Twice per year, 60 to 75 donors are invited to spend time on campus connecting with university leadership. The schedule of activities includes dinner with the president and discussions with other senior leaders.

Boston College

All of the sessions provide donors with a “look under the hood” of campus administration. Leaders discuss current pressure points, upcoming decisions, and long-term strategic planning. Donors are invited to contribute their opinions on the university’s strategy and direction, while gaining new perspective on the challenges facing institutions of higher education. In addition to having a say in future decisions, donors appreciate the opportunity to network with peers who share a connection to BC. Plus, the president can have personal interactions with multiple donors without leaving campus.

Benefits for donors and advancement staff

Create unique engagement opportunities for your campus

Consider the unique opportunities that your institution can provide to donors who crave exclusive experiences. Design engagements that allow small groups of donors to express their opinion, engage with leadership, and connect with each other. This could include fireside chats with athletics coaches, mentoring programs, project-based working groups, and tours of campus science labs. Donors can’t find these opportunities anywhere else, and will consider giving to unlock the opportunity to attend.

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