Earlier this week I found out that a donor-friend I have known for 13+ years was in the hospital.
I had gone to her room two times during the week, but both times I saw she had company and I didn’t go in. Yesterday she still had a single visitor, but I decided to go in anyway. I said hello to my donor-friend who was sitting up in bed and the other woman introduced herself as her daughter. I said ‘Well friend, I’m not happy to see you here today…’ with a big smile on my face and she looked at me and said, ‘I won’t be here much longer.’
I looked at her daughter and looked back at my donor-friend and said ‘What do you mean?’ She said ‘I was just told this morning there is nothing more they can do. I have lung cancer and there are no more treatments to help me.’ Immediately, I pushed every other pressing thing out of my mind, and sat down next to her, looked her in the eyes and spoke to her.
I said to her, ‘You’re a person of faith, aren’t you?’ and she said, ‘Oh yes, I am.’ And I said ‘Then we know that God has a plan for us and God will be there when we get there.’ And she said, ‘Oh yes, I know that.’
Her daughter left the room and I visited with my friend for an hour and she talked about some things she had on her mind that she wanted to share (she was a volunteer and donor to the hospital where she was receiving care). I spoke about the impact that she had on the hospital through her many years of support (I have a longtime consulting contract with the hospital). We talked about her deceased husband and we talked a lot more about God. When I left her, I said, ‘I’ll see you on Monday when I’m back.’
I found out today that she passed away last night.
I am eternally grateful that I learned to be mindfully present with my donor-friends. This mindfulness gives me focus and empathy as a fundraiser to be able to tune in and truly listen to them, where they are. In that moment, at that time, I was able to offer a morsel of comfort by talking to her about something I knew she cared about—God, God’s love and eternal presence.
Why do I call them donor-friends? Because that's what they are--and what they should be for all of us. Not merely donors who give and leave, but friends who we invest in as people, friends who we care about and think about year-round. As fundraisers we must have authentic relationships with our donor-friends, knowing them enough to know what matters to them, and what moves them. This, and this alone can reverse the trends of donor-attrition and disillusion with the nonprofit sector.
We must invest in our donor-friends because it is the human and right way to treat them as people. We must do it because it ensures loyalty from our donor-friends and stability for the worthy causes we work for. When you can be mindfully present when your donor-friend needs you to be, that’s confidence. From this state of mind, asking and giving happen naturally.