About this time last year, I wrote a post entitled “Giving Credit to those who Influenced Me the Most”, which I recently reposted when I moved my archived posts to WordPress. It was a letter of love about my parents who brought me up and shaped me to be the person I am. That was written in celebration of their 55th wedding anniversary. As their 56th anniversary approaches, I am inspired to revisit something they talked about almost six years ago when we celebrated the milestone of their golden anniversary.
In 2007, my siblings and I returned to the town of our birth to celebrate our parents’ 50th anniversary. Friends and family came from near and far to gather and share in this joyous event. Each of the children took turns standing at the podium to talk about what it was like to be raised in a loving family by these two amazing individuals. After we all spoke of our admiration and love for our parents, they got up and spoke to the crowd.
Instead of them talking about the great things that made their marriage last, they talked about the little things that kept them together for so long. My mom mentioned that one of her favorite things about my dad was that he poured and brought her a glass of juice every morning. My dad talked about having dinner with the family every night at the kitchen table, instead of sitting in front of the TV. They talked about taking a walk around the block together for a few minutes together away from the kids. Sometimes, they traveled together without the kids, whether it was a short trip for a business convention or going out of town for a night of dancing. They never mentioned any huge event, a big house, expensive car, or costly gift, but credited the little things for keeping them together.
Most donor relationships are the same as my parents. Sure, some donors want their names on a building or a plaque on a wall, but they are fewer and farther between than you might think. Most donors just want to do something good. They do want to be acknowledged, but they don’t necessarily want a big fuss made over them, nor some big award or even a blanket or coffee mug.
They do want a nice timely thank you note with their names spelled correctly. They do want to know how the money is being used and how it is changing someone’s life in a positive way. They want to hear from your organization more often than the annual request for financial assistance. They want you to come to them for their opinions and advice, and they want you to give them your respectful attention. They will appreciate a heartfelt letter thanking them for their support far more than they want a blanket, an umbrella, or any quid quo pro item for their gift.
If you want your donors and volunteers to stick around for a long time, do the little things that are important to them. Send them a thank you card with a short hand written note. Invite them to lunch or have a cup of coffee, ask them for their opinions and ideas, and make them a part of your organization. It will make them feel valued much more than a plaque on the wall.