Don and Shirley Thanked Me for Helping Them Give!

By Varden Hadfield

“Don, we’ve got to give more. We’ve got to find a way to give more scholarships like this one,” Shirley said after a touching, emotional lunch with some of their scholarship recipients. After hugging each of the students, she gave me a hug and thanked me sincerely for arranging the visit and for helping them create a special scholarship fund. The experience was a truly memorable one I continue to treasure.

They were thanking me for helping them donate thousands of dollars!

In countless fundraising trainings, I’ve heard the rules: “First thank, then ask,” and “People give to people.” But a training seminar cannot convey the joy of real experiences connecting donors with their recipients.

Whenever possible I love to help them meet each other in person: organizing student thank-you lunches or hosting donors at performances, presentations or tours. When a personal meeting between donors and recipients isn’t possible, or the donor wishes to be anonymous, I’ve delivered handwritten thank you notes and photos, shared reports with photo updates, given CDs and DVDs and artwork, and shared personal quotes of gratitude.

Donors leave these thank-you visits grateful they made an investment in others’ lives, motivated to invest again, and looking to increase their giving to help more people. In many cases, the thank-you reporting visit was more effective in increasing giving than an ask visit would have been. One donor created a multimillion dollar student support endowment and enjoyed an in-person thank you visit and performance with students. A few days later he called to offer to create two more endowments the same size!

Often donors don’t offer on their own to renew and increase their gift. But when the stewardship experiences have been effective and emotionally genuine, asking for more is natural, even expected, and highly effective. Donors are glad to be invited to continue and increase their giving.

Don and Shirley and I shared numerous other experiences over the years, and they continued to give, with frequent increases in their giving. I rarely asked—they just noticed needs and offered to help. They even created planned gifts to ensure their support would continue, and helped chair a planned giving legacy society. We’re still friends and stay in touch, several years after I left the institution they supported.

I hope this Thanksgiving season, you can create your own memorable donor-recipient connections to treasure for years to come.