Many of you read the first half of my Fundraiser of the Month post with Chris Logan, here is the final question from that post. Feel free to connect with me if you have someone in mind that might fit.
Do you have any memorable donor visits or solicitations or events that you’d like to share?
A number of years ago, I lived and worked in the former Soviet Union for an international NGO. Our primary focus was social policy reform for kids and families. I wanted very badly to change one particular orphanage for disabled girls. The place was horrific primarily because of a very corrupt director. Many organizations had been trying to bring about change in this place since the mid-nineties. In the particularly bad winter of 1996, 35 of the 200 girls died from exposure and starvation.
I lobbied hard to bring about change, and brought together a consortium of who’s who in the country I was working – the Ambassadors from America, Germany, France, Spain, etc., UNICEF, the World Bank etc. We managed to convince the President as a group to get rid of the corrupt director and they brought in a new Director that wanted to be there only because she loved children. It worked.
I decided to go ahead and hold a special fundraiser to help get the new Director off on the right foot. I put together a fundraiser called “Dinner with the President” where a small group of ex-pats could come have dinner with the President, and all the proceeds would go to the orphanage.
We sold 200 tickets at $100 each raising $20,000. The room was packed. At 5:59 pm, one minute before the start, the President hadn’t shown up. In a conversation with another government representative, he told me that the President was not coming. I was devastated! I thought to myself “what a disaster”.
We went ahead with the speeches. I spoke, the head of UNICEF spoke, we ate dinner. It felt horrible. Then, a man approached me after dinner. He was a British businessman I had met a few months earlier. He asked if he could get up and say a few words. Given that things had already gone badly, I said sure.
The man stood up at the podium and made the most incredible speech. He spoke about how we had come together to witness something extraordinary. He spoke about how we had all rallied around a single cause, and how it had made such a difference in the lives of children. He spoke about how I, as Director of a small NGO had done something that the largest International Institutions in the world were unable to do. He began to tear up as he spoke about being raised in an institution himself as a child. He then said, “to hell with the President. If he isn’t smart enough to understand the impact of this evening, to hell with him.” To rousing applause. He went on “I didn’t come here tonight to meet the President. I have met him and I promise you, I was not that impressed. In honor of the President NOT showing up tonight, I would like to present a check to Mr. Logan in the amount of $30,000. To be split between his organization and the orphanage. I suggest others here consider doing the same”. They did. We raised nearly $60,000 total that evening.