My husband and I have been donating to an alma mater of his for years. Decades, actually. And when I say “my husband and I” I mean my husband. I have asked him to not make these recurring monthly donations, that there are other, more worthy causes in the world that we should be directing our dollars to, but he really wants to support this institution, and so we have for the majority of our long marriage.
Eventually we hit a cumulative giving threshhold and combined age that we attracted the attention of their major gift team, and I began getting phone calls. Me. The one who has been saying for years that I don’t want to give to this institution.
I spoke to the gift officer, who was kind and grateful for our gifts, and explained that he really needs to talk to my husband, I personally would not still be sending money their way and that it’s my husband who is directing the donations. I even provided his phone number so he could call him directly. He said he would make a note of it and thanked me for taking his call.
Then, about six months later, I began getting phone calls again from the institution. I let them go to voicemail for a while, but finally started picking them up. The cheerful person on the other line said, “Hi, may I speak to Wayne?”
Uh, no you may not. Because you reached me on my cell phone at work. But this time I wasn’t so helpful to explain that Wayne was my husband and to give his number.
I replied, “This isn’t Wayne’s number.” No explanation that I knew Wayne, was his spouse, no additional information was given, simply that it wasn’t his number.
Now, hopefully, they have marked the phone number in their system as a “bad” number. But they missed the opportunity to actually connect with the person who wants to support their organization.
What I’m imagining happened is that the gift officer put text into a note field that said “wife does not support, husband Wayne’s number is XXX.” And there it stayed, in a text field. Unsearchable, unattached to Wayne as a person.
This is why I am passionate about helping nonprofits build and maintain databases, so that the personal information that can connect a donor to a single potential major donor is not lost in the clouds. All it takes is one donor, one connection, to make a difference to an organization. Maintaining the data to make those connections is critical.