You gotta give ’till it hurts

Dory Vanderhoof, fundraiser extraordinaire and a former arts management teacher of mine, always knew how much to ask his big donors for major gifts: “You gotta give ’till it hurts”. He would know the potential donor’s likes, dislikes, passions, annoyances, financial and giving history, and knew that a very special gift would hurt just a bit, but would therefore make it so special.

So many people hate to ask money for a living, which is why being a professional fundraiser is an incredibly challenging, yet important job, for so many organizations. The reason I was thinking about Dory this past weekend and had the notion to look him up, was because I, too, had the experience of not knowing how to give… but in a different context.

I had received a free $15 Starbucks gift card and I wanted to give it to someone, but I wasn’t sure who. I have a hard time justifying the cost of a latte that is over $4, so I don’t shop there very often. Yesterday, I had a brainwave that I would buy a latte for myself and give the card to the person behind me for them to have their purchase for free. But, I froze, as I was too embarrassed to go through with it. After I paid, I waited for my beverage and looked at the line-up, and knew that I couldn’t just approach one of those strangers and give it to them. Who would I choose? Would they think I am crazy?

I bolted out towards the door, and a man who I see regularly on the street was coming in. He looked disheveled and a bit confused, and I thrust the card in his hand and blurted, “There is about $11 on this card, feel free to use it”, and then I ran off.

I saw the man later wandering around and wondered what happened to the card. A bit of my self questioned whether he ‘appreciated’ the gift. I then realized that being a donor can sometimes be as difficult as asking for money. If you are giving someone a gift, it’s hard to not feel that you need a sense of appreciation and comfort that it will be used wisely. It’s human nature and I believe one of the reasons Imagine Canada was created, so charities need to go through a rigorous process to be certified, and donors can then feel confident that their financial contributions will be wisely spent.

Instead of focusing on whether the man used the money for a coffee or just threw the card away, I guess I should look inside myself to figure out why I was so embarrassed to give a gift to someone outright. Introspection to be done!




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