What Do Fundraising and Anne Frank’s Tree Have in Common?

by Barbara Maduell

“I was in Montana, conducting feasibility study interviews.” That was the dry, seemingly boring answer I gave to friends and colleagues who asked me where I went last week. In fact, interviewing an organization’s stakeholders is a critically important part of the planning process for any special campaign initiative. The one-on-one conversations provide candid community feedback about the strength of an organization’s mission, identify potential leadership and major donors, develop compelling campaign messages, and clarify next steps to ensure that staff and volunteers are prepared for a time-consuming yet exhilarating and transformative effort.

One of the interview questions we always ask donors is whether they feel satisfied with the way in which our client organization solicits, acknowledges, and recognizes their gifts. Responses vary – from people who feel well connected and appreciated to those who only hear from the organization when they are asked for money once a year.

The Montana donors we interviewed each answered the question the same way, and it was an answer we don’t expect these days. The collective response went like this: “We don’t wait to be asked. The need is so great and the organization is so important, we just give as much as we can, as often as we can.”

Back to Anne Frank’s tree. This past week, wind, rain and disease felled this venerable tree that comforted a young girl hiding from the Nazis. Eleven prized cuttings from its branches were sent around the world. The news reminded me of a quote from young Anne that has captured pure generosity for generations: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Today more than ever, nonprofit organizations need to build relationships through which they communicate with their donors frequently and meaningfully. What a wonderful thing when those dialogues inspire giving that doesn’t “wait a single moment,” and is offered with the joy Anne Frank felt when she looked out her window.

As you begin a new season of fundraising, what inspiring donor stories do you have to share? Let us know. We’d love to be able to share your stories with a wider audience.

Barbara Maduell, CFRE, is a former development professional in Seattle’s Jewish community; she is currently a senior consultant with The Collins Group.