Almost 10 years ago when I started with my charity in a professional capacity, I made my first ‘donor stewardship’ call to a woman who had donated $150, her usual annual donation. I called her just to say ‘thank you’ and introduce myself. Well, that was the beginning of a wonderful relationship.
On the phone she told me something like “that’s so nice of you to do that. No one has ever called me to say thank you before. What a nice surprise. What did you say your name was again?” I also sent her a Christmas card that year.
The following year she donated over $1,000 and of course I promptly called her to say thank you again. At this donor level she would also receive an appreciation certificate so I arranged for a visit with her, out in the Fraser valley. I learned she was single, no children and retired, loved children and had watched our telethon forever, didn’t like all the mail we sent her and once a year would be quite enough, thank you very much!
During our meeting I wondered out loud if she had ever considered leaving a gift in her Will to some of her favourite charities (hopefully including us). She said “Don’t you worry Mr. Chipman I’ve gone to my notary and have left a little something in my Will to three of my favourite charities, including yours.”
Each year thereafter she returned to her annual gift amount of $150 and each year I called to thank her and made one more call just to say hello and let her know how we were doing in our mission. I sent a Christmas card every year too.
Last year my Christmas card was returned and her telephone was out of service. Oh! oh! And shortly after I received a call from the executor who sent the usual probate documents and copy of her Will. I was sad that I would no longer be able to share our conversations about helping children but sure enough there were 3 charities in her Will, 2 small specific legacies and a residual bequest for everything else. That was us!
Most grateful and delighted we were when we received a cheque for over $700,000, so I could only think back to our first conversation where she said “No one has ever called me to say thank you before. What a nice surprise.” And she is helping so many children with that bequest, even beyond her lifetime.
Peter Chipman BBA, CFRE
Director Planned Giving/Major Gifts for Variety – The Children’s Charity of BC
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