Free Gifts and the Gift of Giving
My wife and I often get ads in the mail from department stores announcing “free gifts” from cosmetic companies (though oddly, Chloe Mikaelian never does).
But if she (my wife, not Chloe) wants to take advantage of whatever it is they’re offering, she can’t just walk up to the counter and say, “I’ll have one of those. Thanks for being so generous.” Uh-uh. If she desires those goodies, she has to buy something. And not just anything — it must meet a certain dollar amount.
There’s no “gift” in that deal. A bonus, maybe. Gift, no.
I saw one of those “free gift” offers the other day, and it made me think of something related to (big surprise … ) planned giving: gifts for the donor.
I’m not talking about giveaways like hats, stickers or legacy society pins. And I’m not talking about the tax or income benefits of a gift plan, either. I’m talking about something of even greater value.
It’s the gift of belonging.
Your nonprofit has a vision. And if the donor connects with that vision, you are giving them the opportunity to become part of a community that makes a difference.
There are friendships to be found within that community, and a way of overcoming isolation, despondency — even self-centeredness. Your nonprofit can give somebody a purpose they were lacking.
This can be especially true for retirees. Retirement, for many, isn’t the land of milk and honey. Instead, it can be a wasteland: Instead of waking every day with a purpose, they wake wondering what they can do to stem their boredom.
You can only play so many rounds of golf, go on so many senior-citizen outings, before you long for something with more substance. (Though maybe golf isn’t a good example — I have a friend who spends every waking hour on the course and loves it. His wife, not so much…)
How to Make a Difference
People need people. We need to be part of dynamic, accepting communities; to make a difference; to make our lives count. You, as a fundraiser and representative of your nonprofit’s mission, are in a position to make this happen for your donors. In fact, it’s part of the stewardship that goes along with your job.
And this goes beyond just donations. Engage your donors in volunteer activities. Maybe they can help at your soup kitchen; clean cages and walk dogs at your animal shelter; address and place signatures on thank-you letters and mailings to your prospects.
Maybe a particularly charismatic donor can become the face of your nonprofit. And if you can get them to recount their experiences as part of a donor story, all the better — it will encourage more donors to come forward, too.
The late theologian Henri Nouwen once put it this way:
“I wonder how many churches and charitable organizations realize that community is one of the greatest gifts they have to offer. If we ask for money, it means that we offer a new fellowship, a new brotherhood, a new sisterhood, a new way of belonging. We have something to offer — friendship, prayer, peace, love, fidelity, affection, ministry with those in need — and these things are so valuable that people are willing to make their resources available to sustain them. Fundraising must always aim to create new, lasting relationships.”
Get out there and let your donors make a difference in the world. Make the gift of belonging available to your potential donors. It could very well mean more to them than all the tax credits and CGA incomes combined.