Are You Truly Thankful for Your Donors?
Josephine Conrad loved animals. This came from living with parents who were conservationists even at the turn of the 20th century. Her father was an industry magnet and made a fortune. Josephine was their only child. Josephine grew up an independent woman in a man's world. She shirked tradition, never married and never had kids. She went to an Ivy League college and studied botany and wildlife.
After college, she worked for several conservation organizations and always had a slew of animals living with her. Dogs, cats, rabbits … even chickens roaming her backyard.
After her parents died, she inherited her their fortune, but she was not a lavish person so no one really knew she had enormous wealth. All people knew about her was that she was kind and loved animals and nature.
One day, Josephine received a letter from an animal-rescue shelter. Because it was a local shelter and she herself rescued animals, she mailed in a $25 gift. Within a week, she received a very nice thank-you letter.
This continued to happen over and over again … except that over a period of 10 years her gifts became larger and larger. Then, something happened. She gave her first gift of $1,000 to this shelter, and she never heard from the organization again. Well, she got the standard thank-you letter she always received, but that was it. Nothing.
Several years ago, Josephine died. In her will, because she had no (human) family, she left her $50 million fortune to care for her four cats, two dogs and three rabbits.
Roy Beasley was a retired investment banker. Enormous wealth, yet he wasn't much of a philanthropist. He really hadn't made any gifts larger than $10,000 to any organization. It wasn't important to him.
One day Roy had a heart attack. After they got him into the hospital, the doctors said he needed quadruple bypass surgery immediately or he was going to die. The doctor working on him was one of the best in the nation because he invented a new procedure that wasn't as invasive, yet was extremely effective.
The surgery was a success, and within a short period of time, Roy was out of the hospital and made a full recovery. This experience changed Roy's life. He realized how precious life was, and he was so thankful to the doctor and the hospital for saving his life he gave them a check for $100,000 in gratitude.
The hospital's foundation sent him a nice thank-you letter with a handwritten note on it from the vice president of advancement. Roy thought that was fine, but he was also hoping to hear from the doctor who saved his life.
Roy and his wife were invited to attend the annual gala for the hospital. Again, because he felt such affinity toward the hospital, he agreed to buy a $100,000 table and invited 10 of his friends to join them.
His surgeon was even one of the speakers, but Roy never had the chance to meet him that night. Some young lady from development did come by his table and asked him if he was having a nice time, but there was nothing meaningful that happened.
Over the course of the year, Roy heard nothing from the hospital. He went in for checkups, but another physician always handled it. After that, all he received from the hospital were annual reports and invitations to events.
Tragically, that year, one of his grandchildren needed emergency surgery and the local children's hospital saved his grandchild's life. Out of gratitude, Roy gave the hospital a $10,000 gift. The next day, the CEO of the hospital called Roy and thanked him profusely for his gift and invited him to tour the hospital. That relationship grew … and grew.
Five years later, Roy died of heart failure. In his estate not only did he take care of his immediate family, but he also left the children's hospital $100 million. The largest gift this hospital had ever received. And, the only gift to charity that Roy left in his estate.
My question to you is: Are you really thankful for all of your donors? Do they know how much they are loved and appreciated? Do your donors feel cared for? During this great time of giving thanks, let's use it as a reminder to ask ourselves these questions.
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.