Several years ago, I was working with an organization to help shore up their organizational development operation. While conducting a review of board giving, I came across a member who had given the same gift for 15 years. It wasn’t substantial, but it was consistent and large enough to catch my attention.

What was unusual was that no one, neither staff nor other board members, knew who the member was. My curiosity was piqued. So, with the organization’s permission, I reached out to him, and he agreed to meet.

I genuinely wanted to find out more about him: his background, why he joined the board, why he donated so consistently and why the nonprofit was important to him. We met for lunch and had a great conversation. He was surprised and pleased someone from the organization had wanted to meet with him.

I asked him about his personal story. Then, I just let him talk. I learned he was involved in the organization’s program as a youth and credited it for setting him on course for a successful future. He was an attorney, but did not practice law. He had become a venture capitalist, had interests in several companies and owned homes around the U.S. and Caribbean. He had never married and had no family. He was happy with where life had taken him, but he really wanted to give back.

The executive director, who recruited him to join the board, had left the organization and moved across the country shortly after the board member was added. The new executive director had not, yet, contacted him. The donor didn’t even know he was still listed as a board member. The organization kept him on, even though no one knew him, because everyone thought someone else had the connection.

When I asked why he gave the amount he did, annually, his response was simple: “That’s all they asked me to give.” Every year, he received an automatically generated letter asking him to renew his gift, so he did.

I engaged him in a deeper discussion about his desire to make an impact in the organization, and he was very open to giving a major gift in the high-six-figure range, and also wanted to discuss a legacy gift from his estate. At this point, I introduced him to the current executive director so they could begin building a relationship and discuss future giving plans.

Now that this man and the executive director were connected, I knew there were untold possibilities ahead—not just for the organization, but also for the donor. There would be opportunities for more personal involvement, an inspiring story for volunteers on the impact of the program and, of course, the benefit of support for youth served by the nonprofit.

This is the power of philanthropy to facilitate new connections, deepen existing relationships and make a positive difference in the world.

Ross Pfannenstiel

Ross Pfannenstiel
Executive Vice President
Kansas City