By Matthew J. Beem, PhD, CFRE Chairman and CEO, Kinetic
I was at my neighborhood public library on a recent Saturday morning wrapping up loose ends between weeks on the road. I often duck into the local branch on weekends to thin and organize my “stack” between crazy work weeks.
Movement near the library entrance caught my eye as I worked away feverishly at a corner table. I looked up to see a man walking slowly through the lobby toward the restrooms and water fountain. He carried a pack and bedroll on his back and appeared to be stopping in for a drink after a night outdoors.
I watched him as he approached the water fountain, only to feel disappointment as he stooped and pushed the button. The fountain was broken.
Before I could get up, a young man sprung from his reading chair near the fountain and walked quickly toward the man. What happened next warmed my heart.
The young man patted the gentleman reassuringly on the back and extended an unopened bottle of water. He offered a greeting, assured him again and returned to his chair to continue reading.
The man at the fountain clutched the bottle of water, looking back and forth in disbelief between it and the man in the chair. After unscrewing the cap and taking a long gulp, he sheepishly waved at his benefactor and shuffled back toward the library entrance.
I had just witnessed the power of philanthropy. Somebody gave something of value to another, a gift that would improve his life. Beyond the much-needed quenching of the recipient’s thirst, the act of giving surely improved the life of the young man who shared his water.
The power of philanthropy is unleashed when donors, volunteers and nonprofit professionals work together. Whether large or small, financial or in-kind, giving transforms the lives of beneficiaries and donors and reminds us of our capacity to make a difference.
Nobody knows more than fundraisers that financial gifts are important. But every act of generosity matters. Each of us decides how we will give and receive generously to unleash the power of philanthropy in our lives and the lives of others.
I witnessed a great example of the power of philanthropy recently during time with a performing arts organization that Kinetic serves. As we sat down to begin our counsel day, I glanced across the table and noticed that the vice president of development was grinning.
“What is it?” I asked. I suddenly worried I’d packed a mismatched suit coat and pants, a lingering effect of the pandemic.
She went on to explain that a significant prospect we’d been cultivating for the organization’s campaign had made a seven-figure pledge the day before our meeting. The family had gotten involved in the organization relatively recently but had quickly become patrons of its productions and donors to its important work in the community.
“What made the difference?” I asked. The organization had moved the prospect through several cultivation steps but knew the ask was a stretch.
“The volunteer,” the vice president of philanthropy said without missing a beat. “I accompanied and supported her during each of our cultivation meetings, but it was her relationship with the couple that ultimately influenced their gift.”
The volunteer joined us and other campaign volunteers later that day at the monthly campaign cabinet meeting. We’d prepared one of the campaign co-chairs to celebrate the volunteer’s significant accomplishment during the cabinet member kudos section at the top of each cabinet meeting agenda. I’d prompted the co-chair to ask the volunteer to summarize the philanthropic journey in her own words.
“I know the family made a significant gift, by far the largest they’ve ever made,” the campaign cabinet member said. “What was most surprising, though, is that they thanked me after confirming their pledge. It made me realize how important asking people to make big, meaningful gifts is.
“And I’m not done!” she continued. “I have more prospects on my list, and I want to keep going. This feels really good!”
It was a professional moment that affirmed how privileged we are to do what we do. Our work as fundraisers and fundraising consultants enables us to connect committed volunteers, passionate donors and capable staff members in journeys of cultivation and solicitation that culminate in gifts of significance that help nonprofit organizations unleash their power of philanthropy.
Kinetic strives to help every organization it serves unleash their power of philanthropy. Giving enhances beneficiaries’ lives, providing much-needed resources and support, but it also improves the lives of donors and volunteers. We are proud of our work connecting donors, volunteers and nonprofit employees to missions of meaning, helping them achieve the joy that comes from giving.
Thank you for all you do for the organizations, donors and volunteers you serve. Together, we are unleashing the power of philanthropy!