It was hard to miss the news this week – Sylvia Bloom, a 96-year-old secretary in New York City, left a $6.24M gift in her will to a local social service organization.
Ms. Bloom had quietly amassed over $9M over the course of her life, and apart from a few small gifts friends and family, she donated her fortune to fund scholarships for low-income students in her neighbourhood.
Too often, our organizations miss truly connecting with donors like her – we’re so busy dreaming about the high profile mega-donors, the quiet, unassuming supporters who don’t have a lot of traditional “wealth indicators” get overlooked.
There are so many donors, likely already within your supporter base, who have the capacity to make a six or seven figure gift to support your cause.
Are you doing the all the right things to find your Sylvia Bloom?
Value all your donors
Major gift programs are my passion – so I’m the first to recognize that you’re likely going to be working differently with a $25 donor versus a $25,000 donor.
However - that doesn’t mean you can’t lavish love and appreciation on all donors!
At the very least, anyone who gives any amount to your cause deserves a prompt, heartfelt, personal thank you letter for their gift.
I know the importance of caring for all your donors is not news to you – unfortunately, the culture of our organizations, and our tendency towards short term thinking and under-investment in stewardship, results in a poor level of donor care.
But if you’re not taking the time to properly appreciate all your donors, chances are, you could be leaving a really big gift on the table (not to mention the gifts of every size that are lost due to our sorry state of donor retention!).
Start a conversation
Before you even send that warm and wonderful thank you letter, why not pick up the phone to personally share your appreciation?
What a great way to find out what inspired a new donor’s gift – or get to know more about what’s behind a loyal supporter’s longtime giving.
A few well thought out questions can be a powerful way to start a meaningful conversation with any donor.
It was a simple chat with a donor just like this that turned an annual $75 gift into a six figure donation – and coincidentally, it was from a donor who was just like Sylvia Bloom!
Start a simple bequest program, already!
Never mind a $6M donation – could your organization use a $30,000 gift?
Because that’s the average size of a bequest in Canada – and that’s the kind of money you’re leaving on the table if you’re not talking about legacy giving in your organization.
If you’re like a lot of small shops, you’re likely missing out this, one of the biggest opportunities for potentially transformational donations.
There are many small, manageable steps you can take to start promoting gifts in wills with your donors – and if you get started today, who knows? Your organization could be the next headline in the New York Times for getting a multi-million bequest from a generous, unassuming donor just like Sylvia Bloom!
Emma Lewzey, CFRE is an award-winning fundraiser who has been helping great causes like yours build and grow successful fundraising programs since 1995. She’s the President-Elect of the world’s largest Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Chapter in Toronto, and the National Chair of AFP’s Fellowship in Inclusion and Philanthropy. Contact Emma to book your free discovery session, and find out how you can work together to strategically focus your precious resources on the fundraising initiatives that truly work.