What's the Color of Your Donor's Eyes?

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Ok, quick! Recite your organization’s mission statement! Believe it or not, most of us can do it verbatim. We can also summarize our vision and values, and in succinct bullets share this year’s case for support statement.  We do this with enthusiasm and passion, making the most of every opportunity to create an environment to ask for a gift and continue to fulfill our organization’s mission. Check!

We do these things well. But friendraising and fundraising involve much more!

Do you remember ever being on a date when the other person only talked about himself/herself? That’s how our donors feel when we go on and on about our organization!


We all know the mantra that fundraising is about relationships. Getting to know donors not only helps us discover their passion and potential, it helps us determine if our charity is right for them to invest their fortunes, dynamically impacting our organization’s future. But we can‘t achieve this without taking the time to listen to them.

I had not seen Evelyn in several years. With a changing position and other priorities, we had lost touch. When I called to set an appointment, it was like seeing an old friend again. I updated her of my role and she asked about my family, and then I settled in just to listen.

For 2.5 hours she shared about her life. She told me about her heartbreaking, yet exciting decision to leave home as a young woman; her adventure out west, traveling by herself from Ohio to New Mexico to take a position as a civilian on a US Air Force base. She shared about the young pilot she met and their courtship, her trips to Alaska and Arizona, deepening a love in her for exploration and Native American art. I looked and realized that there were compelling stories locked up in a collection of dream catchers that adorn the walls of her home, a beautiful painting of a Native American Indian maiden woman walking through a field of golden wheat on the American prairie and a needlepoint of her childhood home. I listened as she shared about her marriage, the tragedy of losing her husband too soon to cancer, the loss of a brother and others. Sadness and joy wrapped up in the life of this lovely senior woman.

She had decided to leave her estate to the charity I serve, so we discussed over several visits extending over several years, what impact this would make on the lives of others. As construction begins this summer on a building honoring her legacy, it’s encouraging to experience the impact of a true friend.

And oh, by the way, Evelyn’s eyes were blue!

Hodge Drake

Director of Charitable Gift Planning
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Otterbein Retirement Living Communities

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