This has been a tremendous year of learning, growth and preparation. I am convinced at the age of 53 that the next decade of my work in philanthropy is going to be most impactful of my life. I often told my sons as they were growing up and facing some specific challenge that God was preparing them for something BIG. Well, I guess I know in my heart that the next BIG thing is yet to come in my life. He has truly used this year to prepare me for the something special.
I have sat down this year, face to face and personally interviewed 117 major donors. People with hearts that are so unique. People whose careers and businesses are not about amassing wealth. People who believe their purpose for living is giving. They have dedicated homes, careers and businesses to alleviate suffering, helping the homeless, feeding the hungry and providing clean, cool water to those who thirst.
These wonderful people opened their hearts to me. These supporters have cried. They have shared their hearts. They have asked for my advise on how to best give of their time, talent and treasure. However, the most important thing to me was what they said when I asked for their advise. As a major giving advisor, what could I do better… what could the organization do better? Time and time again it came down to two things, two critically important words. Two verbs of action… that required me to get better and to improve. Those two words were: LISTEN & IMPACT.
Our financial partners wanted only two things: a chance to be listened too and a chance to see the impact their investment was having. There is no doubt about it, everytime I simply listened, giving increased… sometimes right on the spot. Once a donor becomes convinced you are listening to them and have become their advocate they give more. Its just that simple.
I am so thankful for these courageous philanthropists and financial investors in charity. (I truly don’t like refering to them as “major donors”.) These special people taught me that the importance of listening and demonstrating impact are critical to increasing major giving. The thing I saw time and time again was if I create more ways for our financial partners to “get their hands dirty” in the work of Jesus it always had a profound impact on their giving.
I am so thankful for my co-workers who taught me so much this year. Event management has been the key learning. Most importantly, making sure that every detail of every event is centered on one thing: the impact you have having on lives.
I learned so much from each of you. I learned the importance of integrating email and text messaging into my communications with donors. The phone and handwritten notes are important, but to build regular communications you have to email and text in this day and age to grow the relationship.
Most importantly, this year I learned to cry. I have cried with so many of you with your struggle to reach your goals. I have cried with donors as we have prayed for children all over the world. I have cried often in my prayers for each of you as you have worked so hard to raise the resources you need. The “old Coach Ro Jo” was afraid to share his emotions, but the man I am today is not afraid to tear up and wear his heart on his sleeve.
Thank you. You each know I am your friend and supporter for life. My home is always open and my cell phone is always on. I truly believe we’ll be helping others through philanthropy for many, many years.