NOTE: I (Val) had the pleasure of working with Donna for a few years at Senior Services. We were all learning on the job but the thing that has always stuck with me is Donna's authentic and loving interaction with donors. We did a lot of direct mail at the time and Donna took her role as primary contact for thousands of donors to heart. She's written a blog post about why it's important to value all of your donors.
There are noteworthy individuals in society whose particular genius is explaining what should be obvious. These synthesizers explain the mechanics of processes and situations that baffle the less aware. Once we hear or read the explanation of, e.g., why one product succeeds and another fails, or why some people become criminals and others do not, we immediately recognize the truth in it. It was there all along, but we were looking at trees; the synthesizer saw how those trees made up the forest, and described the forest so we could see it too.
Successful businesses have that overview of the “forest” while still attending to the individual “trees.” Without it, their enterprise will suffer. Excellent customer service—the kind which does not repeat a memorized script, but actually listens to the customer’s comment—sets a company apart from its competitors and helps it thrive even if their product is comparable to many competitors.
The same is true for nonprofits. An ability to keep the overall purpose and goal in mind and still attend to the details is critical.
Of the donors large and small that I encountered over several years in fundraising, the smallest of them made the largest impression. There were others in the organization who tended large donors, so I was allowed to tend my “flock” of small donors:
- a gentleman living on Social Security who frequently mailed in one or two dollars--I still remember his name
- the 90-plus-year-old woman who wrote with her gift that she lived alone, was disabled, had no local family, but that our charity had meant so much to her, she wanted to help others…with a check that represented 8% of her yearly income.
Unfortunately the value of good will in the extended community that is reaped from many very small gifts is not possible to calculate and report. To each of those small donors, however, the dignity the nonprofit affords them with prompt and genuine thanks, assurance of their importance to the overall mission, and simple affirmation of their own value, means much more than the financial boost they provide.
In this way, the nonprofit sees the trees and the forest.
Donna is the owner of Edit Proof Writing, a proofreading and administrative support consulting business. You can reach her at editproofwriting (at) hotmail.com.