I apologize for my absence last week. I couldn't find it in me to discuss trivial matters of donors and money when what happened here in the US was all around me and impacted me so deeply. I'm back, but my thoughts are still with my country.
How many of you in your lifetime working at a nonprofit have done a gift announcement? You know, when a company or individual gives you a large amount of money and you rush to have a big Styrofoam foamcore check created, you iron out your photo background filled with your logo and you gather all of the key stakeholders so they can be in the photo. This is great, this is good, your donor is happy, you've served punch and pie and you've attempted to get some earned media in the local press out of it and goodwill everywhere. It looks a little something like this:
Not bad, right? But boy it sure is filled with sameness. I call these the Happy Gilmore check moments. In the classic movie Happy Gilmore wants all of his earnings paid to him in giant checks he keeps in the back of his car. They become a novelty item. Is that what they are to our donors as well? Do they have a collection of big checks somewhere? Is this the best way to recognize our donors' generosity? But wait, there's something else bothering me.
How many of you know the donor who has given the MOST amount of money? I'm sure most of you. How many of you know the donor who has given the longest consecutively to your organization? These loyal donors, this few, these generous souls they are the bedrock of your organization. For me, names like Hal, Eugenia, Bert and Tillie and Clifford come to mind. they give small amounts but they give year after year so I decided to search for the gift announcements for them. I looked for stories of big signs celebrating their loyalty and photos in newspapers and the like. Lo and behold, images of these donors began to appear as well here are their photos:
That's not a mistake. I couldn't find a single presentation of an organization with a big foamcore sign and tons of fancy looking happy officials memorializing 50 consecutive years of giving by a donor or the like. I liken myself to be an expert Googler so this isn't an error of the interwebs, it's OUR error. We are not always valuing the right thing. We're valuing the easy thing, the thing we believe others will follow. If we show other donors someone who has given a big amount, they will too, right? NO. It may have the exact opposite effect. Not everyone can write a big check, but everyone can be loyal. We need to change our worldview about what we value and start making these donors our heroes. I challenge each and every one of you to create at least one of these public celebrations of loyalty in the next year. Show our generous populations that loyalty matters, and that we are willing to reward it right alongside big amounts of money.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this and what you and your organization are doing to value and announce that loyalty matters, not just big gifts. Let's send a new message to our supporters, not just the ones that write the big checks about the value that every gift provides. Post a link below of your loyal gift announcement or your stories of your loyal donors, these folks are my donor heroes. I look forward to hearing your commentary and opinions on this topic.