She never calls me.
We’ve worked together for almost 10 years and she’s never called me. She’s the kind of Executive Director who emails me to ask if we can talk for half an hour a week from Thursday at 2:30 sharp.
So when Ruth called me the day after our appeal dropped, I immediately thought it was a direct response apocalypse scenario. Trembling, I answered the phone and my client said “Jen, I have a story for you”.
Let me tell you about the appeal. St. Pat’s Home is a residence for seniors in Ottawa and we wanted to raise $20,000 for their music therapy program. Music therapy is fantastic for ladies and gentlemen with dementia. It’s calming and soothing, it encourages social interaction, and it can bring back memories and give you a glimpse of your life before your decline. We shared a “wish list” of items for the program: sheet music, equipment, performances by musicians. And we invited donors to “add their voice to the chorus” and share a song that made them feel emotional or brought back a cherished memory. St. Pat’s promised to share them with the residents as part of the therapy program.
“I just had an unexpected visitor,” Ruth continued. “I was sitting here in my office and there was a knock on my door. I looked up and saw a woman I’d never seen before holding the torn-open appeal in her hands. She said, ‘I felt compelled to drive here and see you. You moved me.’ Jen, all the hairs stood up on the back of my neck.”
“She sat down and told me that as she was reading our letter, she heard music playing in her head. Old Irish lullabies her mother used to sing to her, songs her parents loved and would play at home. She was reflecting on just how much music had meant to her all her life.”
“She asked me about the music therapy program, what the residents said about it. We had a really lovely conversation. She’d lost her dad, and he had always been a proud supporter of many Irish Catholic charities, including St. Pat’s. Then she said, ‘I’ve been thinking about making a more significant gift to something important, that really matters to me, but I didn’t know what that was until today. Would it be OK if I wrote you a cheque for all $20,000 right now and fund the whole program?’. Jen, SHE asked ME!! I almost fell out of my chair. I thanked her and thanked her. She was so happy, even happier than me! And the minute she left, of course, you know me, I looked her up in Raiser’s Edge. Lapsed donor, hasn’t given in 3 years. Cumulative giving on and off for about 10 years, totaling not even $600 bucks.”
“I’ve been fundraising for 30 years and this has never happened to me. Thank you and all the Agents for the great work you do for us. And you know, this such a good reminder of 2 things. One, we send out appeals and we just don’t know what’s going on with people when they read it. And two, when you really connect with someone’s values, magic can happen.”
Over the next few weeks, donations continued to pour in. Terrific stretch gifts from donors at all levels. Shattered the goals of previous spring appeals.
And donors also shared their songs and memories.
This is just a small sampling. This stuff literally makes me weep. Legit shaking and crying.
Isn’t it beautiful?
Ruth and her staff have the delightful job of calling these people and thanking them for their gift and for sharing their song. They have joyful, wonderful conversations with donors about music and memories. And they ask if they would like to come and join a special concert being put on for amazing and generous donors, including them!
This is the stuff that fundraising dreams are made of, my friends. I know in my heart that this will inspire legacy conversations too.
Now, what about you? What say you plan your next appeal to create a conversation with your donors? We’ve done more than a handful of appeals like this in recent years with similarly spectacular results. If you’d like me to share another story like this, comment or email me and I will!
Oh, and here’s the full pack.