It can be easy to forget that fundraising can be as much of a blessing to the donors as it is to the beneficiaries. In fact, it is often easy to feel like asking for support is a burden to donors. However, we have the opportunity to facilitate joy in so many ways as fundraisers. Here is an example from one of my clients. I am going to change a few identifying details like names to protect anonymity of the donors, but the story is too good to make up. Here goes:
Bill opened the envelope and did a double take. In his hands was a check for $130,000 from a name he didn’t recognize: Peck. After a good deal of celebration including something resembling a happy dance, Bill went to their donor database to look up the Pecks. But they were not in the database. Next, he went to Google to see if he could find something on the Pecks there. Nothing. So, all Bill knew about the donors were their names—Henry and Delores—and their address, just a couple of miles from The Mission. Yes, this was one of those gifts that fell from Heaven.
Bill’s first call was to me. “What do we do?” he asked me. Given that we didn’t have a phone number, I suggested sending a very gracious, handwritten thank you note and a custom ministry photo book (the kind you can get from Walgreens or Shutterfly). Big, bulky envelopes tend to get opened and photo books can really communicate impact. In the note, I recommended adding an invitation to show the donor first-hand how their support makes an impact.
A few days later, Bill received a call from Delores. She was so grateful for the thoughtful card and book but had to decline the offer to meet at the Mission. Both she and Henry had difficulties walking, so a tour was not possible. Bill then wisely suggested that he bring the tour to them. He offered to bring lunch and visit a bit to talk more about The Mission and get to know one another. Delores accepted and they met a week later.
Lunch lasted for almost two hours and all had a delightful time. The Pecks were wonderful people and so thrilled to be able to help. Henry shared that “God had blessed us in so many ways; it’s a gift to be able to share with others.” As Bill was leaving, Delores asked him what seemed like a strange question, “Where can I buy a wagon?” Given her walking troubles, it was a huge burden to get her groceries from the car to the house. She thought a wagon would solve that problem but being new in town, she didn’t know where to get one. Bill offered a few suggestions and they parted ways.
Upon returning to the office, Bill immediately went to the internet to buy a wagon for Delores. He ordered one of those fire engine red Radio Flyers with the upgraded big wheels. When the wagon arrived, Bill and a colleague wrapped it with a big bow and stopped by the house. They rang the doorbell and ran! Hiding behind some bushes they watched as a surprised Delores discovered her red wagon at the front door.
Later that day, Bill received this voice message: Bill, this is Delores Peck. I cannot tell you how grateful I am and how surprised I was to receive the gift from The Ministry and you were the catalyst of course of my little red wagon. That was so, so, so thoughtful. It’s very seldom that I ever receive anything that nice. Anyway, you will be getting a thank you note, but I wanted you to know just how grateful I am. I am just very, very, very touched. I hate to think that you took the money from The Ministry project. In any event, thank you, thank you.
Bill received that thank you note as promised. A few days after that, an “anonymous” gift of $150 cash came in the mail from a secret admirer; it was in Delores’ handwriting presumably to cover the cost of the wagon.
I want to applaud Bill and his team for their very thoughtful stewardship of the Pecks. Their approach not only made for good fundraising—just a few months later the Pecks gave a $40,000 additional gift—but truly honored them as donors and people. Bill took time to truly see the Pecks, think creatively, and care for them. They were treated as more than a check but as valued ministry partners.
Stories like these remind me of just how honorable our work as fundraisers is. Our work is not just about raising the goal. Instead, we have both the opportunity and the obligation to steward our donors so they receive their blessing for giving. DB&A founder, Clark Dickerson, often shares that we are “blessed to bless others.” It is our job as fundraisers to facilitate those blessings between donor and beneficiary alike.
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