Your Likely Largest Donor

The biggest charitable gift I was ever involved with cam from a gentleman who, prior to the multi-million dollar donation, never gave more than a $35 annual gift.  I reached out to him, not because I thought he had money but because he had been giving to us for more than a quarter of a century.  I felt he deserved a very personal thanks. From the moment we met, it was obvious that his capacity was far greater than what he was giving--and greater than our research department had rated him for.

"why," asked him long after that first meeting and after his big gift, "had you kept the size of your giving so low?"

He shrugged.  "No one ever asked," he said.  "And no one before you ever reached out to show me why my support mattered."

Flash forward many years.

A client has a donor we'll call Rose.  Several times a year, Rose sends in one dollar--cash.  And every time she did, the staff would grouse and the ED would heave a heavy sigh.

I get it.  It cost more to log in and send a thank you note than the dollars received.  Even adding the gifts up over time.

On the other hand, Rose had been loyally giving for almost 10 years.

I convinced the ED to reach out and tell Rose she wanted to showcase her loyalty in an upcoming newsletter.

It turned out that Rose is a developmentally disabled adult, still living with her parents.  Parents to who told us how much Rose loved the organization and how she saved and saved until she had that dollar to send.

While neither Rose nor her family have the capacity for a larger gift, Rose's loyalty did spur other donors to increase their giving--and one donor tomato a $50,000 gift in Rose's honor.

These stories are not anomalies.  Unless you reach out, you will never know what stands behind a small annual gift.  By reaching out to honor loyalty, you will find hidden largess--perhaps in a larger gift, perhaps in larger giving from others.  And definitely in continued loyalty, so small feat in a sector where donor attrition is far too high.

Janet Levine helps nonprofits increase their fundraising capacity.  Helping you to reach out to loyal donors and showing them the value of their support is just one way Janet can help your organization go from mired to inspired.  Learn more at  And do reach out to Janet for a free, 30-minute consultation.