A Tale of Two Squirrels

I live in an apartment in an established, older neighborhood.  It has large trees which provides cover to a variety of birds and homes to a lot of squirrels.  Last year, I wrote about the birds that visited my bird feeder, and at my new home I have set up a couple of bird feeders which I like to watch, but today I want to tell you about a couple of my furry friends.

One squirrel, which I call “Cotton Ears,” is a grey squirrel that has white ears.  I don’t know if that indicates his age, but to me he appears like a little old man.  He comes around when I put some peanuts out, but he takes them and hides them in the snow or in the leaves.  He does not eat them in front of me, so I do not get to watch him enjoy the meals I provide him.  He does not stick around the yard unless I have food in my hand.  Cotton Ears also likes to raid the bird feeder he can reach, often knocking it to the ground so he can eat what is for the birds.

The other squirrel is a black one that I have dubbed “Shadow.”  She doesn’t come around everyday, but when she does, she will eat some of the peanuts I give her while I watch, and then she will store her excess bounty, like Cotton Ears.  However, unlike Cotton Ears, Shadow will stick around, even when I don’t have food for her.  She comes over to my stoop, occasionally smells my shoes, and then does her other squirrel activities.  She seems to like to spend time and let me know how she’s doing.  Shadow has learned to leave the bird feeder alone and is happy with what she is given.

Sometimes, Cotton Ears will see me with Shadow, and he gets angry, so he chases Shadow away.  He doesn’t like the competition for the free handouts and is very territorial.

Of those two squirrels, I tend to enjoy my “relationship” with Shadow.

In a way, this reminds me of some nonprofits that I have dealt with in the past.  Some organizations come around when I am in a giving mood, take my gifts and squirrel them away, but then don’t take time to try and build a relationship with me.   They don’t send emails or letters to let me know what or how they are doing.  If they think they have competition, they find a way to put them down to try and make themselves look better in my eyes.  It doesn’t work.

Other organizations do a better job of trying to create a relationship with me.  They do a better job of communicating with me.  They send me updates about their programs with newsletters or emails.  They call and ask my thoughts about what they are doing and what they might be able to improve their programs and be better stewards of my gifts.  They don’t compare themselves to other organizations and charities, but they do talk about themselves and those they serve.  That does work for me.

I think that organizations should think about how they deal with their supporters.  Do they only come around when they want or need something?  Do they take time to thank their donors and try to get to know what is important to them?  When they communicate with supporters, do they put an emphasis on what they do or do they find a way to put down their competition to lift themselves up in the eyes of their donors?  Do they even communicate with donors without asking for something?

What do you think?



About greatergoodfundraising

Richard Freedlund has been active in the nonprofit sector in a number of ways, both professionally and as a volunteer. He is the founder of Greater Good Fundraising, a business that helps schools and organizations raise money for their programs while accomplishing something positive for the community. After living in Oregon for 27 years, he has returned to his hometown of Rockford, Illinois and hopes to make his mark on the nonprofit sector there. He is the father of a talented jazz musician and the son of philanthropic parents that continue to support multiple causes. To contact Richard for consulting, fundraising, or speaking opportunities, email greatergoodfundraising@gmail.com or reach him on Twitter.com @ggfundraise
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4 Responses to A Tale of Two Squirrels

  1. Well, since you asked, “What do you think?”: I’ll tell you. Squirrels are nothing but rats with bushy tails.

    Okay, now that I got that out of my system … I get what you’re saying, and it makes perfect sense. Donor retention rates are terrible because organizations do not take the time to build relationships and let donors know the difference those gifts are making. Your post is a good reminder for fundraisers and nonprofit managers.

    • Thank you very much Michael. A good description of squirrels but too bad we have to compare them to yucky rats. I enjoyed reading your post and can’t understand how people can get away from not taking the time to establish relationships. I keep reading about this but I also believe we are falling farther and farther behind in this area. I don’t know where it is going to end up.

  2. My parents used to say over and over again not to forget to say thank you. And today I enjoy saying thank you in different ways. Part of that is because I like crafts and it’s a good way to use my stash but people in general appreciate my thank you messages. My advice is to take time to say and do a little extra when it comes to saying thank you.

  3. Arden Zich says:

    First, I admire your appreciation of your little wild neighbors. Squirrels are excellent landscapers that are responsible for “accidentally” planting millions of trees by forgetting where they’ve buried nuts. Team squirrel.

    Second, I could not agree more about the importance of building and maintaining relationships. People like to know the value and impact of their contributions. I think our nonprofit (a wildlife rehab center!) does a very good job of this. We use social media to share updates and make sure to interact with those who take the time to reach out and comment. Staff and volunteers contribute to regular newsletters that explain how donations are used as well as success stories. We want everyone in the community who supports us to know how their contribution made a difference. I have no doubt that this helps the regular cycle of goodwill and support.

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