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The Phone Call

So often, success in our work is just the result of old-fashioned common sense and simply giving the donor the chance to help us.

This is the story I promised to share with you last Sunday night.  My boss at the time told it to me.

“It was over the holidays and not many people were in the office.  But we had someone at the switchboard and the call came through to me.

“It was obvious from the get-go the gentleman on the other end of the line was in a hurry.  He sounded exasperated about something.  I hoped it wasn’t us.

“I told him who I was, that I was the Executive Director.  He gave me his name and then cut to the chase.  ‘I’m leaving right now to see my attorney.  Can you give me the language to include your organization in my will.’

“I thanked him while I was opening my desk drawer to fish out the piece of paper I keep there.  It has the language he was asking for, and other info donors call to ask about, like our Federal Tax ID number, and how to make a gift of stock.

“I can’t tell you how many times that piece of paper has come in handy.  When people call they want that information right then.  I mean, right then.  They don’t want to wait while you look it up on your computer.

“Once I gave him the language for his will I said, ‘Can I ask, what is your connection to our organization?’  He told me, ‘None.

“ ‘I don’t know much at all about you.  I know you do good work, that’s all.  The first two places I called, no one answered the phone.  You did, so you’re going in my will.’

“Rob, that is word for word how it went.  He hung up, and I jotted down his name.  Six years later we got a call from an attorney representing the estate of that man.  I remembered the name.

“The attorney told me we would be receiving a bequest from the estate in the amount of $800,000.

“To this day, I smile thinking the only reason we got that gift was because we were there to answer the phone.

“And I shake my head thinking about the two organizations this man really did care about.  They didn’t receive that gift.  He wanted to make it to them.

“But they didn’t answer the phone.”

As we said last Sunday night, development is “helping donors do the great things they want to do.”

Do we help our donors, or do we stand in their way?

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