Before the Walls Came Down…
After seven weeks at home, I finally ventured out — mask on, gloves on — to do some groceries. Just like so many of you, I patiently waited six feet apart from the next person and once one person left the store, the next person could go in.
It still feels like the twilight zone to me, but I have experienced this before. Many years ago in the 80s, I visited East Berlin. This was before the wall between East and West Berlin came down. (This happened in 1991.)
People stood in line to buy bread. People had to wait outside a grocery store and could only go in when someone else came out. The only thing different now is the mask and gloves, and the fact that meat and toilet paper are now in short supply and limited to one or two per person.
In East Berlin at the time, the basic food staples were very cheap (bread was a nickel), and items in short supply were luxury household goods, like washers, dryers, TVs, etc.
I remember the beautiful architectural buildings. I remember it being a beautiful day, and I even saw an outdoor café not too far from the subway exit.
I had just sat down when two young people (they were in their early 20s) asked if they could share my table, as the others were full. I thought they were tourists like me, who had taken the subway in to get from the West to the East, but they told me they lived in East Berlin.
We ended up spending the most fascinating two hours talking about their life, limitations, goals and dreams. I asked them if they were even allowed to talk to me, and they indicated that some of the soldiers walking around could ask them what we had discussed, but that as a tourist, I shouldn’t have to worry.
I will never forget that afternoon. Fortunately for them, the wall came down a few years later, and I hope that they had the freedom to do what they wanted to do.
Right now, social distancing is putting up that invisible wall between people, families and loved ones. It’s limiting our freedom, and it’s cramping so many of us doing what we like most.
Fortunately, there’s no wall between the phone, the mailbox or the internet. They’re still at our disposal. They’re available to show to others, especially your donors — one-time givers or sustainers, really donors at all levels — that you’re human, wanting to connect and willing to have a conversation.
Let’s keep using the phone, the mail or the internet, and all its tools, to keep the barriers between you and your donors low. Because if we don’t do this now, we’re building back up those walls none of us would ever want to experience (again).
Accept what your donors are telling you. If you’re willing to work with them, they’re willing to continue to work with you and support you.
But once donors (no matter which level they give at) think you don’t care about them, the walls go up and who knows how long it’s going to take to come down again, if at all.
If you like history, here’s a short tidbit about the Berlin Wall.
Erica Waasdorp is one of the leading experts on monthly giving. She is the president of A Direct Solution, a company serving nonprofit organizations with fundraising and direct marketing needs, with a focus on monthly giving and appeals. She authored "Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant" and "Monthly Giving Made Easy." She regularly blogs and presents on fundraising, appeals and monthly giving — in person and through webinars. She is happy to answer any questions you may have about this great way of improving retention rates for your donors.
Erica has over 30 years of experience in nonprofits and direct response. She helped the nonprofits she works with raise millions of dollars through monthly giving programs. She is also very actively supports organizations with annual fund planning and execution, ranging from copywriting, creative, lists, print and mail execution.
When she’s not working or writing, Erica can be found on the golf course (she’s a straight shooter) or quietly reading a book. And if there’s an event with a live band, she and her husband, Patrick, can be found on the dance floor. She also loves watching British drama on PBS. Erica and Patrick have two step sons and a cat, Mientje.