I attended the funeral of a friend’s mother yesterday. She led a wonderful and exciting life and passed away peacefully at the age of 93. One part of her life that struck me was her love for her community and particularly her passionate, lifelong support of one of our state’s fine institutions of higher education. She and her family’s relationship with the institution runs deep. It spans decades and permeates every part of the school – and every member of her family.
Reflecting on this relationship between a family and a cause they care about was a great reminder to me that the act of philanthropy, while vitally important to the organizations who count on the generosity of donors, is undoubtedly more important to those generous and faithful people who choose to invest deeply in the causes and institutions they believe in. While their support helps us achieve our organization’s mission, the act of giving helps those donors realize many of the aspirations they have for themselves, their families, their community and the world around them.
It’s easy for those of us who serve on boards, volunteer for annual fund drives, or who serve as members of the staff of a nonprofit to get caught up in the push to raise money for our causes. We get busy thinking about planning for the big event, getting the appeal letters written and segmented, making the assigned number of solicitation calls, and hitting our year-end fundraising numbers. All of this is important and deserves our time, energy and attention. Yet those who give often, give generously, and give without an expectation of recognition or reward – deserve just as much, if not more, of this time, energy and attention.
Building relationships and genuinely caring about the hopes and dreams of our loyal donors can accomplish so much for our community – it builds great schools, hospitals, museums and affordable housing; it helps preserve sacred lands and restores historic buildings; it provides shelter for the homeless and meals for the hungry; it offers hope to the abused, neglected and forgotten – all while bringing great joy to those who choose to invest in causes we all care about.
Invest some of your organization's time and energy in understanding who your donors are and what they care about. Then find ways to help them realize their dreams. When you do, we all win.
Bert Armstrong is a principal and co-founder of Armstrong McGuire & Associates.