It’s Not About the Pickles

May 16, 2017

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Written By: Jason Fry

By Jason Fry

I was recently with a donor who’s been giving to a local charity consistently for over twenty years. Her giving abruptly stopped a couple years ago. In a deeper investigation with her over breakfast she said she just “hasn’t heard anything new” from the charity in a few years. I swallowed hard and said, “I am so sorry. Your commitment and generosity deserves more.”

Once that was said, it seemed to clear the air. She opened up and began sharing stories about her grandkids, her business struggles and triumphs, her passion for giving back and her stories of growing up in a tough home. She said she missed going to the local charity fundraiser where she would catch up with friends and see the mission at work. She always bought “Uncle Fred’s Homemade Pickles” (in addition to sponsoring many kids and families in programs) at the event and gifted them to one of her neighbors. She said, “…but it’s not about the pickles. I love to give back. We need to help each other. With all the good people I meet it still amazes me how much bad there still is in the world. But that doesn’t mean we should give up. We just can’t.”

There are several reminders from this visit to keep in mind:

“I’m sorry” are two of the most important words in the English language. I know when I haven’t lived up to my own standard or values. When I let go of defending myself, and creating my many reasons for being too busy to do something, I realize it’s often just best to offer a sincere apology. Own it. Say it. Move on. Is there someone on your donor list who you just need to reach out to and say it? It could lead to something incredible.

Give your donors a reason to give. I know that sounds obvious, but we often take it for granted. We have a different perspective working inside the organization. We know we do important work. We know the myriad ways to get involved. However, more often than not, our donors don’t know. Continue to work with your team to create specific opportunities to give regularly: sponsor a kid at camp, support the development of a new garden, help expand programs to a new county… or buy a jar of pickles.

Finally, when we stop to take the time to visit with our donors and really listen to their stories; often we will be blown away by the good that’s truly out there. As staff or volunteers, it’s important for us to fill our own inspiration buckets regularly. Success stories from programs are typically fuel for that, but so are the stories of generosity and passion from the people who support us. What an honor for a donor, who just agreed to make a very generous gift, to look back across the table and say “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make a difference.” Yep…goosebumps.

What have your experiences reconnecting with donors been like? Sound off in the comments below.

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