I was sent away to a boarding school in another country when I was six years old. Except for two years, all of my school and college experience was in boarding schools away from home.
I rarely saw my parents during all those years. In fact, I never really knew them. They were strangers. They both died when I was in my late 20’s. It’s sad that I never had a relationship with them.
I am 70 years old now. And as I look back at the little boy who lived in three countries away from his parents, I now clearly understand the source of my need for significance. I was very much alone then and spent a good part of my life trying to find my value.
It has been an interesting and often painful journey. And even to this day it is a wound I carry.
I’ve started this post with a very personal glimpse into my life so I can bring you to a place of introspection about your life and journey. I’m hoping that if I can persuade you to take a look at your journey, no matter how painful it has been, and that look can get you in touch with your need for significance, then maybe your empathy for and understanding of your caseload donor’s need for significance will increase.
Here’s why that would be a good thing.
When you begin to see the strength of your need for significance, and all the strategies you will employ to secure it – when you begin to know what it feels like to remain insignificant and to remain without expression and without an outlet for the very thing you must express – when you’re fully aware of your feelings related to this state of being, then you can begin to see the seriousness of your responsibility to properly serve your caseload donors’ interests and passions.
Your caseload donor, no matter their station in life, has a need for significance and meaning. One important way that need finds its expression (and Jeff and I have written and talked about this quite a bit) is the need to express their passions and interests.
And that is why they give.
This is why handling that gift, no matter how it comes in, is such a serious and sacred act. It’s not merely processing money – although it certainly is that, in part.
No matter what form it comes in, that gift is an expression of the donor’s search for significance. Your donor is a human being who has turned their gaze from the details of their life to your organization, and to your promise to fulfill something they care deeply about.
Think about this for a moment. This person is living their life – with all its joys and pains – and you have caught their attention with an offer to help them do something they yearn to do. And if you can pull it off, your donor will experience significance and joy because of you.
This is such an amazing act! That’s why I wanted to bring it to your attention in this way. Jeff and I spend a lot of time in this blog writing about the techniques of major gift fundraising. We even talk about the fact that major gifts is not (just) about the money – it’s about fulfilling donors’ interests and passions.
But in my opinion, we have not spent enough time talking about the extremely serious responsibility you as an MGO have for each donor on your caseload.
Every donor is just like you and me. They have a story – a beginning and a journey that has shaped them and made them who they are. And that story has birthed a very deep need inside of them. A part of that need is wanting to find expression and fulfillment through the relationship your donors have with you and your organization.
This very important reality must be taken very seriously, and stewarded and cared for.
You know how important it is for your own needs for meaning and expression to be honored and taken care of. Work hard to treat every one of your caseload donors exactly how you want to be treated.