I’ll get the sad part out of the way quickly. My mother died September 4th. She was a neat lady – I miss her a lot.
Anyway, my brother and I suggested in her obituary that in lieu of flowers, donations could be made to a charity of one’s choice. I’d seen that in umpteen obits before and it seemed like a fine idea.
Apparently my friend Ellen thought so, too. Ellen and I met in seventh grade, at Phillips Jr. High, in Mr. Butcher’s shop class (wood working – bird houses and such). We were inseparable from then on.
Here we are in high school – with my mom. (I’m the one with the hair – and problems with color coordination. Wanna guess which decade?)
Anyhoo… In late September, I received a letter from Blessings in a Backpack, a national charity based in Louisville, Kentucky, that sends backpacks full of food home with school kids who otherwise might go hungry over the weekend.
It was a short letter – three concise paragraphs that said:
- Ellen and her husband, Don, had made a $50 donation in my mother’s memory.
- What the program does, why it does it and the impact it has on kids’ behavior, test scores, reading levels, health and school attendance – all in three sentences.
- Thanks to Ellen and Don for the donation – and to me, for caring enough to encourage charitable contributions.
Did you know Blessings in a Backpack provides food for about 60,000 school kids in about 440 schools in 42 different states? I didn’t. But now I do. And six of those schools are in my home state of North Carolina.
How cool is that?
So that got me thinking about memorial contributions to charity. After a brief conversation with CFO Kevin Beam and Accountant Beth Sedgwick, I learned they get 10 or so memorial donations a month, with the typical gift amount ranging from $10 to $100. (By the way, Kevin picked up the phone on the second ring, pulled in Beth to answer questions, no fuss, no muss. GREAT customer service!)
So when I look at this whole experience with my potential-donor’s hat on, and my consultant’s pen in hand, here’s what I see…
What Blessings Did Right
- They sent me a letter acknowledging Ellen’s gift – promptly.
- They kept it short and sweet. Easy to digest.
- They had their message and impact statement boiled down to its very essence. That’s hard to do, but SO important. I now know EXACTLY what they do and the impact they have.
- They didn’t ask me for money. My mom just died – they know it’s not the time. (That said, if they’re as smart as I think they are, I’ll get another letter from them later on.)
- The opportunity to make a donation in someone’s memory is prominently displayed on the website’s donation page – that makes it easy for the donor.
- Their fundraising software has a module that automates most of the process – that makes it easy for Blessings.
- There’s a link to their Form 990 on their website. (Yeah, I know that’s not related to this post, but it made this potential donor happy to see a nod to transparency!)
What Blessings Did Wrong
- I can’t think of anything…
- But I feel like I need at least two bullets to warrant a bulleted list…
Kevin and Beth had an excellent piece of advice for donors before they let me off the phone: When making a memorial donation, always provide the mailing address for a family member if you’d like an acknowledgment sent.
Because if you don’t, you’ll miss the opportunity to brighten someone’s day – like Ellen did for me.
Any uplifting memorial donation stories to share? If so, I’d love to hear them!