Best Summer Stewardship!

by Eleanor Lanza on August 29, 2017

This summer, the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast made a concerted effort to focus on donor engagement and stewardship as its Annual Campaign began to wind down.  What better way to showcase to our donors how they truly make a difference than to show them first hand! 


This famous quote from Maya Angelou served as inspiration, I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”


With a lot of thoughtful consideration, coordination and planning, we created the “Summer Stewardship Tour of Impact” open to all our donors across the YMCA Association.  We started by gaining support from one of our most engaging and impactful Metropolitan volunteer board members, Miss Terri Derkum, to serve as our champion of the cause.  We realized that the best way to get our members to attend was to personally invite them.  A call or an email from a fellow donor can sometimes make all the difference! Luckily, we have some of the most engaged and supportive board members who took it upon themselves to make calls and personal invitations to donors and volunteers! 


We sent a postcard mailing to all our donors and e-invitations were sent as reminders throughout the summer. 


Four different YMCAs held Impact Tours. We offered special programming at the respective campuses and featured stories told directly from participants, program directors and counselors who are involved with changing lives every day.  Here are some of the highlights from the tours:


  • Safety Around Water, the Y’s drowning prevention program, was our platform for our Annual Campaign.  Our instructors discussed the program and donors watched a lesson from the pool deck and saw dry land activity demonstrations inside the gym. 
  • Teen Programming makes a significant difference to children who are entering this awkward stage in their young life.  Children spoke about what it meant to be part of the Y’s Teen Program and how making new friends, not being judged and opening up to counselors changed their outlook on life. 
  • Day Camp counselors sang camp songs and a few brave participants told us how the character bracelets incentivize them to have better behavior.
  • Day Star, a unique program and facility for mentally challenged adults at our Dye Clay YMCA, invited donors to spend time learning how being in a safe and welcoming environment impacts the lives of the adult participants and caregivers.


Overall, the tours were successful and we learned some key factors moving forward:

  • We have only scratched the surface of showing the impact we MUST tell and show our donors.
  • Our staff loved providing the tours as much as the donors who participated.  It gave staff members a moment to shine and showcase the amazing work they are doing every day that sometimes gets overlooked.
  • We found wonderful storytellers in our participants and our donors.  We uncovered more impactful stories that we plan to share through social media and Mission Moments at our meetings and events.


With 17 YMCA branches and program facilities, our Y Association plans to implement more impact tours throughout the year, not just in the summer, to continue to showcase existing programs and/or highlight current activities.  Inviting our community leaders and volunteers to not just read about what we do was key; they need to see it…because they feel the difference the Y is making!


Eleanor Lanza is Director of Donor Engagement and Stewardship at the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast.  In this role, she is responsible for creating a comprehensive donor engagement strategy, managing stewardship programs including donor recognition correspondence, fundraising and cultivation events, and corporate donor relations.  Eleanor has over 16 years of experience in the non-profit, healthcare and sports industry, including operating her own consulting business and serving as Director of Member Relations at the World Golf Hall of Fame.  She is a native of Florida and has a B.S. degree from the University of Florida.