Donor Stewardship

Once someone makes a donation to your Masjid project or Islamic School, what happens next? Do you thank them? Do you communicate to them regularly providing updates on the progress of the project? Have you ever looked at your donor database to determine how many of your donors are repeat donors?

Donor stewardship is basically how you communicate with and engage donors once they have donated to your organization.

It is a relationship building process that starts with a donor’s first donation and aims to keep that donor engaged and interested in your project. Donor stewardship should not be regarded as an afterthought. After all donors are very much like customers; they are far more likely to donate again over someone who has never donated to your cause before.

When discussing donor stewardship, one must also bring in the concept of the donor pyramid. Using a donor pyramid, you can divide donors into categories, based on their level of commitment to your organization. The lowest (widest) part of the pyramid would represent first-time donors and the highest (narrowest) part of the pyramid would represent your major and planned donors.

The goal of your donor stewardship strategy should be to move donors up the pyramid.

Donor Stewardship and Masjid/Islamic Centre Projects

Masjid and Islamic Centre projects often take years to complete. And even after their completion, they still require the continuous financial support of donors. Donor stewardship is essential and in fact a fundamental right for donors who have donated to a Masjid or Islamic Centre project. You see, many Muslims think highly of donating to a Masjid because of the many rewards our deen has promised ‘those who help build a Masjid’. So, at the very least they deserve to stay informed on the progress of the project and feel reassured that their donation is in good hands.

In fact, by being continuously updated and engaged, donors are indirectly being encouraged to contribute even more.

Whether your organization’s donors are local or distant, they deserve to be thanked for their donation and updated on how it is being spent. Making Jumuah announcements is one good way of keeping the local community engaged and informed. But, to raise funds for a multi-million dollar project, you will likely need help from beyond your local community. Hence, it becomes essential to keep donors updated on the progress of your project through online means, such as by posting on social media, and using email.

Donor Stewardship and Islamic Schools

Islamic schools occupy a special place in many Muslims’ hearts because they are associated with building future generations who are proud of their Muslim identity. Moreover, at Islamic schools students learn Quran, Arabic, and good character and there are numerous verses from the Quran and hadiths that encourage teaching the Quran and building good character. Hence, many Muslims would be naturally inclined to donating to Islamic school.

Now, imagine donors getting into the fold of an Islamic school’s donor base, but end up being neglected and not appreciated!

It is usually expected that tuition fees are enough to cover the operating costs of a school. But for any costs associated with establishing or expanding an Islamic school, or even just enhancing its resources, receiving donations becomes necessary. Hence, maintaining a donor base and performing donor stewardship becomes essential for any Islamic school to thrive.

Storytelling in the Muslim Community

People donate for emotional reasons rather than based on rational thinking. This is an established fact and we see it time and time again. We’ve seen it, for example, at emotionally charged fundraising dinners and during the odd nights of Ramadan, particularly the night of the 27th. Donors end up donating large amounts, more than they ever imagined.

But how can one trigger an emotional response from a target audience during other times of the year?

The secret is in Storytelling.

Storytelling is a well-known fundraising technique in the non-profit sector. Through storytelling, non-profits showcase the great work they are doing and the benefit they bring to people. Whether it involves solving a problem, filling in a void, or relieving someone’s stress, storytelling helps show the positive impact a non-profit has on society.

You see, through storytelling you take your target audience on a journey from thinking to feeling.

Once your audience starts feeling, they become more emotional and thus can empathize with you. Once they are in that state, they are more likely to respond to your call to action.

Now, let’s take a look at how storytelling fits in within Muslim communities.

Storytelling within a Masjid/Islamic Centre Community

If you sit down for a few moments and think about it, you’ll probably realize very quickly that each and every one of us has some sort of a story that links us to our locality’s Masjid. Some of us may have neglected Salah for a long time and with Allah’s guidance have decided to establish it through regular attendance of the local Masjid.

Person prostrating

Others may be parents who moved to a particular neighbourhood for no other reason than to be able to take their kids to a weekend Quran halaqa at a nearby Islamic centre. And others may be reverts who have a special bond with the local Masjid because that’s the place where they first took their shahada publicly. We all have our own unique story that brought us to our local Masjid.

There are lots of stories that can come out of our Masjids . Every event that takes place at the Masjid can generate one or multiple stories that showcase the great work it is doing for the community. Even each volunteer has a story that has lead them to make the decision to volunteer with the Masjid. And of course the members of the Masjid community have stories that show how they have benefited from the Masjid’s services.

Storytelling within an Islamic School

There are many alumni students who trace back the foundation of their Islamic identity to what they learned at their elementary and/or secondary Islamic schools. They each have a great story to share. Moreover, Islamic schools fill a big void that many parents have when it comes to their children’s education. They too have great stories to share. There is no shortage of inspiring stories in Islamic schools that can showcase the benefit they bring and the big void they fill.