This past weekend, I not only celebrated the birthday of our great country, but also the birthdays of some family members. It was a time for giving – giving thanks to our founding fathers for our freedom and giving gifts to loved ones in celebration of their lives. Birthdays are joyous times. We anticipate with delight the idea of reveling and bestowing presents upon family and friends. It is a privilege to be part of the merriment. We like to see our gifts opened and heralded along with those of the rest of the guests and truly appreciate the thanks we receive for them. This is an important takeaway for non-profits.
In my experience as a non-profit fundraising consultant and development strategist in the Hudson Valley, participating in non-profit events, particularly board meetings, you continuously hear why you must / should give to the organization. Eyes glaze over, eye contact is diminished. This kind of talk just makes people downright uncomfortable. You need to do something different. Why not try the thanks for giving notion? Recently, a colleague and I made a presentation at a board meeting about the importance of celebrating donors and how this concept needs to become part of their regular agenda. We didn’t reinvent the wheel, but rather modeled this on the Wall Street Journal’s VERY popular Donor of the Day. In the development world we all know the dance associated with giving–engage, cultivate and acquire. What we initiated here was a small gesture, yet an important one. We shared the story of a single donor, acknowledging the significance of the gift with applause. Think back to the birthday celebration. People WANT to give to something they care about, something they feel privileged being a part of.
This small gesture we conceived spurred a flow of ideas on how to re-capture and share the experience of giving. It created a spark. Case in point: after the meeting one of the board members approached me about the criteria we used for selecting the highlighted donor as he wanted to suggest this concept to another organization. Pretty heady stuff!
This thanks for giving concept reminds me of Tzedakah. While the term literally means righteousness, it is often used to signify charity. In practice, Jews carry out Tzedakah by donating a portion of their income to charitable institutions or needy people they may encounter. The perception among many modern day Jews is that this form of donation is not possible; however the obligation of Tzedakah still requires that something be given. Today, we are replacing the word obligation with privilege. So now giving becomes part of an individual’s plan, it has a purpose beyond just giving.
At your next board meeting or event, put your organization’s mission first and foremost, share your success stories. Subliminally put your cause in a place where donors want to give and do give. Make it a privilege for them to do so.