A simple, unconditional, heart-felt, genuine “thank you”

I am a numbers nerd; the queen of testing.  I have passionate love affairs with databases.  And even though, over the years, I’ve done every other fundraising job from copy- and proposal-writing to events to a major gift negotiation —  and even knocking on doors asking for petition signatures and “a check as well so that we have the resources to ensure that this legislation passes” (I was 18. Maybe my start in fundraising?) – I always come back to the numbers. Beautiful numbers.

So when I came to work at an animal sanctuary in the Netherlands, I was more than a little nervous to learn that I would be working as a “donor contact” at a nine day donor visitation event. (“You mean I have to talk to people? For nine straight day? In Dutch?”) Language aside, I found the idea of pure social contact – without a pitch or an ask – really intimidating.

But as it turns out, welcoming donors face-to-face and simply saying “thank you” is really lovely. And it wasn’t just special for the visitors to see how their gifts are put to use – to get to see the faces and hear the stories of the animals they’ve helped to rescue – but it also meant something to me. Instead of a speaking with donor number 58673 who gives an average of three times a year to a newsletter and occasional special appeal – who falls into the “socially conscious consumer” donor profile, gives mostly in opposition to animal testing, and whom we’re trying to upgrade to a monthly giver, I got to know “Barb,” a friendly mom who works part-time as a medical tech while her kids are in daycare. Who started donating to animal organizations after refusing to participate in live animal labs while in medical school.

And “Linda,” a older lady who, after her husband’s death, decided to start giving away their savings to charity and wants to leave her house to an animal rescue group but is not sure which one.

The truth is, for all of the techniques I’ve learned over the years to motivate people in fundraising – to speak 1-on-1, to tell a story, to listen for clues as to motivation – it’s really quite easy to connect to someone who believes in the work that we do.  And how nice it feels to just say “thank you” without a “and please…” “but we really…”. Just “thanks.”

And what did I get in return? Also a simple, unconditional, heart-felt, genuine “thank you” for the work that we do. For my contribution.

And that’s certainly a lot more appreciation than I ever got from a spreadsheet.

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