What Happens When You Show Love and Loyalty to a Donor?
Fran was a major gifts officer (MGO) who had great relationships with his donors. One of his donors in particular was someone for whom he had a lot of respect. This donor essentially had come from “nothing” and built up an incredible business. They got along really well.
Over the last 10 years, this donor had given more than $5 million to Fran’s organization, around $500,000 a year. Fran, of course, counted on that revenue in his yearly goals.
Then, in October 2008, a disaster struck for the donor. Overnight, the bottom fell out of his business. Like a lot of businesses during that time, all of a sudden things got really bad.
Soon after, the donor called Fran and told him that he would not be able to make his usual gift and that he would try to do “something.” Fran, of course, told him not to worry, that he should focus on his own family and his business.
Now, privately, Fran was concerned. This meant he was not going to meet his goals this year. It also meant that 2009 didn’t look good either. Well, it turned out that neither did 2010, 2011 or 2012.
Many MGOs might have given up on this donor and moved on. In fact, Fran’s boss was pressuring him to take him off his caseload as early as mid-2009, when it looked all but hopeless that this donor no longer was going to be able to give a gift. But Fran was adamant about not giving up this donor.
In fact, Fran did the opposite. Fran knew how committed this donor was to the mission of his organization and how embarrassed the donor was that he could no longer financially support it. Fran never gave up on this donor. He continued to visit the donor, give him updates, thank him for all his previous giving and, more importantly, encourage the donor to persevere through this tough time.
Fran even helped make business connections for the donor that turned out to be great leads for his donor. You could say Fran made it his mission to make sure this donor felt loved and cared for.
Fran continued to steward and show compassion for this donor for almost five years.
Then something incredible happened. On one of Fran’s regular visits to check in with the donor, the donor, with tears in his eyes, sat down with Fran and told him that when the bottom of his business fell out, Fran was the only one who did not abandon him or ask for anything. “Everyone was my friend when things were good; I had all kinds of folks visiting me and asking for support,” he said. “But when it got bad, you were the only one who still came to visit, even though you and I both knew I couldn’t give a dime. Well, not only has my business rebounded, but it is flourishing, and I want to do something.”
Then the donor reached over to pick up a piece a paper. That piece of paper was a check. On that check was written the amount of $5 million! “$1 million for each year I could not give,” said the donor.
Fran was speechless. But there was more. The donor then went on to say that he and his wife had been talking about retirement and their legacies. He told Fran they were going to leave 90 percent of their estate, which is somewhere in the ballpark of $50 million, to Fran’s organization!
Fran didn’t do anything different for this donor than he would for anyone else. He was just acting within his own character. He showed love, concern, care and loyalty to this donor, just like he did with his own friends.
These simple yet powerful acts helped move this donor to incredible generosity—a generosity that brought this donor amazing joy and happiness.
The question is: Are you like Fran? Is this work more than just getting the money to you? Do you show love, empathy, care and loyalty to your donors? It’s amazing what happens when we are good to one another.
Jeff Schreifels is the principal owner of Veritus Group — an agency that partners with nonprofits to create, build and manage mid-level fundraising, major gifts and planned giving programs. In his 32-plus year career, Jeff has worked with hundreds of nonprofits, helping to raise more than $400 million in revenue.