Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38
Donor relations. Doesn’t it sound fancy and complicated? If you google it, there are books and seminars and discussion boards. It must be difficult. It must be impossible to make all your donors happy. Lucky for me, I had good teachers in my previous job (Huge thank you to Jean Johnson and Kelly Allen!). The key to having good donor relations is simply honoring those people who give to your organization. It isn’t rocket science to understand people want to feel valued. They want to feel like their gifts were important and that the organization appreciates what they have given.
Last week, we received a generous donation from a long-time supporter in memory of his wife and I noticed his address had changed to a care center in the area. It made me wonder how he was doing and if he would appreciate some visitors. In my past life as an assistant in the alumni relations department at Coe College, a wise woman showed me how to truly care for the people who are connected to your organization. She would take flowers to those with special birthdays and visit sick alums in the hospital. And it seemed like she was never too busy to attend a funeral of someone close to Coe. She instilled in me a belief that without loyal supporters, your organization will not thrive. People have chosen to support what you do when you work in a non-profit and they certainly don’t have to. They could easily donate to a different group or not at all. The love they have for what you do should be honored and celebrated. My passion for non-profit work started with Jean and I hope I am able to pass it on to someone else someday.
Back to Harold…I had this big idea that we could visit Harold. We could go to the care center and have a nice chat. Wouldn’t Harold be blessed by us coming to say thanks? Wouldn’t he appreciate that we drove over to thank him? I was feeling pretty proud of my idea. And I still think it was a good idea and it was the right thing to do. Harold had supported us for many, many years and his wife had been a volunteer for us. We were thankful for all they had done with their time and treasure and especially that they still gave all these years later.
I contacted the care center and asked if there was a way we could visit. I received an email from Harold’s daughter that was so nice. She was delighted that we wanted to visit but let me know Harold is suffering from dementia and she wasn’t sure how much of our visit he would understand. I let her know we were up for it anyway if he liked having visitors. Her response was that he loves to chat and muffins and cornbread were treats he might enjoy. The visit was set and five staff members were excited to show our appreciation for all that the family had done for Bridgehaven.
We walked in with homemade blueberry muffins and a brightly colored Thank You balloon and found Harold in the activity room visiting with his friends. As we were led to a smaller lobby area that would be quieter so we could visit, I noticed that Harold’s eyes lit up with excitement. He remembered Leanne and seemed to connect that we were from Bridgehaven/Aid to Women. Harold loved the muffin and was happy to tell us about all the activity at the center. He has the cutest smile and his daughter was right, Harold loved to chat. After a bit, he asked if we would like to see his home and the photos his daughter had put up for him. We graciously followed him to his room and walked into a hallway filled with photos. There was Harold at age…probably 4 or so…sepia-toned photo with a smart bow tie and pink cheeks. There were photos of him in the military, with his young bride and the other side of the hallway featured colored photos of grandchildren and newspaper clippings of a 65th anniversary and an 85th birthday.
As Harold talked about who was in the photos and of fishing trips and vacations to the beach, it was clear that his family meant so much to him. He spoke of his three daughters and his eyes sparkled. And he talked about his wife…”She was the president and she got things done!” Working gals, we all loved that and it was clear he was so very proud of her. A few stories later, his eyes filled with tears and he spoke of his love for her. How he missed her. The five of us were looking at each other and smiling with tears in our eyes. What a blessing to be there with him in that moment. How powerful to hear about a love so strong that death didn’t matter. It was such a cool moment.
So, I set out today to bless a sweet, generous man who has been giving to Bridgehaven for decades and I left a care center feeling like he did more for me today than I could ever do for him. I was honored to witness his love for his family and the passion he still has for a wife who is gone. To know that, while he might get lost in a story or forget certain words to complete a thought, the love he felt for the four ladies in his life could never be lost. It was powerful. And so while I thought my morning was going to be about thanking a donor, it was really about being a witness to a man’s heart. It is a blessing I won’t forget. Thank you, Harold.
Director of Development