Earlier in the year, I posted a Tale of Two Squirrels, that described my relationship with two neighborhood squirrels, one black and one gray. This is a follow up and another lesson that development professionals should heed.
A few weeks ago, I last saw my two squirrels, Shadow, the black female, and Cotton Ears, the gray male. They regularly came to my apartment for a handout of peanuts. As I mentioned in my previous post, Shadow stayed to visit when she came by, but Cotton Ears always took the peanuts and went elsewhere. I liked having my almost daily visits.
Shortly after my last visit, I spent five days in Seattle, where I wanted to meet with a couple of colleagues in person, but most importantly, watch my daughter graduate from college. Sadly, I couldn’t schedule the visit with the colleagues, but another opportunity will come up in the future.
When I came back from Seattle, I thought I would start seeing my furry friends, but it has been almost three weeks without a visit from Shadow or Cotton Ears. I did learn a day or two ago that Cotton Ears died after a receiving a deadly shock on a wet night from an electrical line. It saddened me, but I am comforted to know why I haven’t seen him.
What does have me concerned is the lack of Shadow sightings. I know she had a litter of babies recently after noticing she had pulled a lot of fur out to line her nest. I am hoping she will return, but no knowing is discomforting. I don’t know if she may have been killed and eaten by a bird of prey, a neighborhood cat or fox. I don’t know if she found another source of nourishment, especially since many maples are dropping their helicopter-like seeds. I don’t know if she simply moved on or will ever return. It’s the anxiety of not knowing that bothers me.
Other squirrels have started to visit, as well as a chipmunk which came out of hibernation, and the numerous birds of various species have been busy at my feeders, but it really isn’t the same as my friend, Shadow. Time will tell if she comes back, but if not, there are the others to take her place.
Donors and supporters of nonprofit organizations often feel abandoned when they cease to hear from the organizations that they support. They wonder why, after providing them with financial or volunteer support, they do not hear another word. They wonder what their support has done for the organization and its mission and how they have made a difference. “Have I made a difference?” they ask themselves.
Then, after months of getting nothing, they get an envelope in the mail with yet another appeal, but with little news or personal touch. In meantime, other organizations have solicited the donor, telling their stories and sharing their needs. The donor, after not hearing from the organization, has lost interest and found another that will keep them informed. The organization loses because of its inability to stay in touch.
I advise that you do not be like my squirrel friend, Shadow. Don’t let your nonprofit organization become replaced because you failed to engage your supporters. Engage and stay engaged to those who share your vision. Reach out and share your news, and on occasion, ask again.