The Power of One

By Gina Bortz, Director of Institutional Advancement

With the close of another fiscal year on June 30, Phoebe’s Institutional Advancement team feels a little like the husky hiker on the Price is Right show. Once you reach the top, you topple over the mountain and have to start all over again. July 1 is that day when Phoebe’s new fiscal year begins and the annual fundraising tally restarts back at $0.

It also means we immediately begin working on our Annual Report, in which we recognize and thank our past year’s donors for their generous support. So while we’re in the process of gathering names and putting together that report, let me extend a huge “thank you!” to each and every donor who made a gift to support our work and mission. We understand and appreciate the power of each individual donor.

As a fundraiser, I know why certain phrases are always used (and what we try to convey) when asking for annual support. I’m sure you’ve seen over and over again some of the following phrases:

  • It’s not important how much you give, just so you give
  • What we really need is everyone, every year
  • Mark your gift “unrestricted”

I wonder whether all of our loyal and prospective donors really understand what we’re trying to say. So, what exactly do these phrases mean and why do you see them over and over again?

Let me start with the first phrase. It’s not how much you give that’s important, but just that you give. I want to quantify that with the obvious. The more the donor gives or invests in Phoebe, the more Phoebe can do to meet its mission to serve the needs and enhance the lives of our elders, their families and the broader community. So, yes we encourage, appreciate and count on our Century Circle donors (those who give $1,000 during a fiscal year). But, we appreciate all of our donors making large and small annual gifts based on their means. We can’t stress enough how much the $10, $20, $50, and $100 gifts help Phoebe.

Last fiscal year, Phoebe received 1,293 gifts of $100 or less from 879 donors. Collectively those gifts totaled $221,794. Not too bad! We can provide a lot of services with those funds. But, the real power of each gift comes when we look at foundation giving. How can one gift of $25 really help Phoebe? Well, that one gift could help Phoebe receive grants ranging from $5,000 up to $100,000 or more. So, you can see those smaller gifts are really important collectively because they both add up and help pave the way to bigger opportunities for Phoebe.

How does that work? Well that brings up the second phrase: everyone, every year. One of the questions on almost every grant application is: “How many people give – what is the donor count?” The power of each and every donor makes an impact when answering that question. Foundations want to know how many employees, board members, residents, families and other community members support the mission of Phoebe. Foundations correlate the number of donors a nonprofit has to the strength of the nonprofit. The number of donors and our annual dollars raised act as our “report card,” which foundations use to evaluate us. Foundations want to see that those closest to the organization are invested in its mission. They provide grants to organizations that can show they’re keeping their donors year after year while increasing their total number of donors. This can only happen when current donors renew their gift. “Everyone, every year” isn’t a cute catch phrase; it’s important and indicates the power of one.

Now to the last phrase, “mark your gift unrestricted.” Why would a donor do that? In a world where people like to have control over how their gift has to be used, isn’t unrestricted giving like taking a leap of faith? Doesn’t all unrestricted money go into a black hole? The truth is unrestricted gifts makes an organization like Phoebe work smoothly, enables innovation and provides fuel for growth. It unlocks potential and allows people to get down to business and do what they’re best at – at Phoebe, serving elders in our community. Unrestricted giving is powerful – it tells the community and funding foundations that donors have faith in Phoebe, its leadership and its mission. Unrestricted giving is critical to almost every non-profit, including Phoebe. When you give unrestricted, you are saying I trust Phoebe to use my gift where it is most needed. These funds can be used to provide the organization flexibility to take advantage of opportunities as they arise during the course of the year, pay overhead costs or, meet critical emergency needs that may come along. All these areas are very important needs.

Each person and each gift has the power of one. All gifts (large or small) impact what we do at Phoebe. So as the new fiscal year begins, if you have given to Phoebe in the past, thank you and I hope you will renew your support again this fiscal year. If you haven’t given in the past, I hope you show your power of one and start supporting Phoebe. Together we can keep Phoebe strong and faithfully carry out our mission as we make a difference in the lives of our elders, their families and our community.