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?