“What’s love got to do, got to do with it? What’s love, but a second-hand emotion?”
Fundraisers were treated to a little Tina Turner at the beginning of “The Power of Love in Major Gifts Development,” a session at the Association of Fundraising Professionals conference, in Vancouver, that focused on the emotional issues in giving.
It turns out a little bit of love does make a difference—and can even land a $1-million gift.
Cindy Niemi, a major-gifts fundraiser at MultiCare Health Foundation, in Tacoma, Wash., says she and her colleagues visit donors whenever they end up as patients at the hospitals the foundation supports.
When Ms. Niemi was told to visit Philip Simon, she did what she typically does and picked up a teddy bear to bring to the patient. When she arrived at the hospital room, Mr. Simon was with his wife, Snookey. “They both lit up when they saw this little teddy bear,” Ms. Niemi says.
She sat down with the couple and quickly thanked them for their gift. Ms. Simon told her she was a retired schoolteacher, while her husband ran a scrap-metal business. They also talked about the hospital, and Ms. Simon said he was getting good care but he hated the food.
Over the next few months, Ms. Niemi learned that Mr. Simon’s business was a family enterprise that had been handed down from generation to generation. When the patient got better, he invited her to tour the business.
At the end of the visit, he told Ms. Niemi, that he and his family members “love to give to organizations in our community, but we love to give anonymously.” He told her to bring a proposal to him in January, when the family makes decisions about how to direct its charitable contributions.
Ms. Niemi and other officials brainstormed what might interest the Simons. She remembered what he said about the food, so they proposed a $60,000 gift to carry out quality control on the hospital’s internal operations, including meal preparation.
After they pitched that idea, the Simonses politely thanked the hospital officials for their time. Then Mr. Simons asked about naming opportunities for the emergency department that the foundation wanted to build, a goal Ms. Niemi had mentioned casually in her visits to his bedside.
The hospital invited Mr. Simon and his family for a tour of the proposed emergency-room site. As the tour ended, Mr. Simon told Ms. Niemi’s boss, “It’s time to get our name out there and establish our legacy.”
Days later, Ms. Niemi’s boss got a call saying the family (including Mr. Simon’s brother Norman and his wife, Barbara) wanted to make a gift of $500,000 to name the hospital chapel. When her boss asked Norman Simon to fill out a pledge form to detail how much would be paid in installments each year, the donor asked: “You don’t take cash?”
Soon after that, Philip Simon died. Officials invited his family to the dedication ceremony for the chapel. The relationship that gesture built helped persuade Norman and Barbara Simon to provide a $1-million gift in December to pay for a holistic cancer-treatment center.
Says Ms. Niemi: “Loving touches can go a long, long way.” And a teddy bear, for that matter.
Send an e-mail to Raymund Flandez.