16 May 2022
Throughout my career, I have worked in the business of generosity. One story which has remained with me for many years, was of a multi-million-pound gift, made to a cat’s protection organisation in the United Kingdom. For the Board, and senior leadership, this gift came out-of-the-blue, one of those days that we as leaders can only dream of, the phone rings, and a significant donation is on its way to support wherever the need is greatest.
It was transformational, it was a miracle, and in their opinion, it was a lucky strike.
The gift had come from an elderly lady who, with no family to pass her estate down to, decided to leave them a legacy. But was it really luck? It was true that she had been a supporter for many years through a monthly gift, but she hadn’t been picked up on a wealth screen or identified for a major donation, she was just helping the organisation that she loved keep the doors open and the lights on.
Over the years, she had however found a special place in the hearts of their fundraising team. She cared about the work they were doing, and perhaps because she was on her own, they cared about her. Every year, the team would hand-craft a special birthday card just for her - a collage of cat photos. They would pop in for tea, bringing treats or new toys for her cats. And no matter how busy they were, or what the day was throwing at them, if she called, they would make her feel like she was the only thing that mattered.
As Community Foundations, there are challenges to being the connector between donor and community organisation. It can even feel one-step removed at times. The benefits though, come from walking alongside people to realise their giving aspirations, and even playing a part informing them. With this unique privilege comes a responsibility to make sure every journey, whether it lasts weeks, years or even decades, is rewarding and inspiring. We must find innovative ways to keep the fires burning, so donors feel connected to the profound difference they are making. And bring to life the people and places their generosity will impact today, tomorrow and for generations to come.
On the day that call came through, the fundraising office were as shocked as anyone by the news. And while the rest of the organisation pondered how this fundraising urban myth could have happened, where one phone call changes everything, the team knew that it was, in part, a result of the gift they had given her, their time.
When my ‘to-do’ list is never-ending, and demands are pulling me in fifty different directions, I reflect on this story. I remember that hand-writing a letter, picking up the phone, or even getting the scissors and glue out to make a card, might take time, but it’s my gift to give in return.
So, if it’s the choice between reviewing spreadsheets or visiting a community organisation with our Nikau whānau, I know which one is the priority. Because when we lead from the front, when we make the time to ensure every touchpoint is special, and that each moment makes a difference or shows you care, people are inspired to follow suit.
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