This week I had the privilege of meeting a wonderful woman and she has given me permission to tell her story.
We will call her ‘Sarah’ to respect her privacy. Sarah and her husband ‘Mike’ are major donors and long time supporters to the charity I work for. Their file is significant and goes back a long way. Three years ago they took out a seven figure insurance policy and named our charity as the beneficiary. Every year they pay a five figure premium on that policy and receive a charitable tax receipt.
The file for this donation is in top shape. It is easy to see when the policy was purchased, what the premiums are, when they are due and who to contact at the insurance company. When Sarah and Mike pass on (which will be quite some time as they are both in their early sixties) we will receive the donation. The file also outlines that we are to purchase a piece of land and create a nature reserve in honour of their son and name it after him. The file is a shining example of what we should all be doing so that our successors can continue the relationship.
However, what the file doesn’t really tell us is that their son died very quickly of bone cancer when he was nineteen years old - almost fifteen years ago. That he loved nature and was full of empathy for animals. Once he even stopped his teenage friends while driving to help an injured seagull. The file doesn’t tell us about how all the teenagers he grew up with coped with the loss of their friend or the hole left in Sarah and Mike’s lives because their son was an only child.
The insurance policy is part of how they are coping with this great loss. This donation and their connection to our organization is a connection to their deceased son. Their gift is how their son will live on forever - in nature.
I love meeting donors and have been very fortunate in the past ten years to get to know some spectacular people. I can’t express with words how much I love this part of my job. But, this was a very special donor visit, and very rare for a generalist fundraiser. In forty five minutes Sarah and I shared tea, a tear, some laughter and some candid conversation. We also decided that a copy of the picture of their son that hangs over their fireplace should be in our file. Sarah is glad to write down her son’s story and the feelings that she shared with me for the file too. We are going to do this because we know that by the time this donation is realized it is very likely that I will have moved on and obviously Sarah and Mike won’t be involved.
Yes business administration is a very important part of our jobs. Good charities like mine know this. Let us also remember that complex donations are usually extremely well thought out and full of emotion. Let’s start making sure that those who follow us get to shed tears with our donors too – even if it is just by reading their story on paper.
Thank you for spending time here.