Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve visitor gives $100,000

On a New Year's Eve nearly a decade ago, a stranger taught me a lesson I will never forget.

Like most executives, I tend to work during the holiday season. Phone calls and daily interruptions are at a minimum. It is usually a week where I can catch up on a number of smaller projects around the office. My office was just off the lobby, so I could also serve as a greeter and receptionist during the holidays.

On this particular New Year's Eve, a visitor came into our lobby looking to make a contribution. He had been to several other charities that day, but none were open. After a little small talk, I was stunned to see his first time gift of $10,000. It was the single largest personal gift in our history (at the time). He and his wife became good friends of our organization, later giving us the deed to one of his houses which netted the organization well over $100,000.

From that experience, I made it a point to emphasize year-end giving. One year, we even encouraged our largest local bank to keep their drive through lanes open downtown until midnight for any last minute gifts. While we did not get another $100,000 through that effort, we did increase the awareness about our organization through significant media coverage that holiday season.

That experience will always remind me that New Year's Eve can be one of the best giving days of the year.

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