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Thank you Momentum donors, for teaching me these 5 lessons.

It is Thanksgiving—hard to believe but true. As a Calgarian, there is much I have to be thankful for…chinooks, the mountains nearby, and the privilege of being the Olympic host city that first introduced ski ballet.
This Thanksgiving, I would like to focus my gratitude towards a group of people near and dear to my heart: Momentum donors. In particular, I’m thankful for the many things they have taught me over the years. Here are a sampling of my top 5 favourites. Enjoy!
Lesson 1: Don’t serve cake for breakfast. When I organized my first breakfast event for donors, I thought that providing a light breakfast with pastries would delight donors. One donor provided me with the following input afterwards: “Brian, I don’t normally eat cake for breakfast.” Explore non-cake options for the next breakfast—noted.
Lesson 2: Donors know more than you think. I was giving a presentation to a group of close Momentum donors where I was providing an analysis of our fund development results. Seeing a pensive look in one of the donor’s faces, I began to explain the concept of a “median” average. He gracefully interjected “yes, Brian, I am aware of the concept of median.” Donors know more about averages (and lots of other things) than I might think—also noted.
Lesson 3: Relationships matter. Jim, a long-time Momentum supporter, once told me: “when I see a letter addressed to ‘James,’ I don’t bother reading it. They clearly don’t know me very well if that’s how they are addressing me.” Donors have taught me that despite the extensive effort of triple checking our mail outs, it is worth it to get people’s names right and honour the relationship we have with them. Relationships matter and they are worth investing in.
Lesson 4: Donors actually are humans. I don’t know why (and I’ve been a part of this problem as well), but in the charitable sector we tend to fill events with long, drawn-out speeches and highly-rehearsed presentations of our own results. The donors I’ve worked with over the years encouraged me to “humanize” the event and make room for them to laugh, to connect, and even tell their own stories. Donors are human and the events I plan should take this into account.
Lesson 5: Everybody has a story. I have been surprised several times by the stories successful business leaders will tell of their own backgrounds: from homelessness, to growing up in impoverished farming communities, to coming from a wealthy family that always taught the importance of giving back. These varied backgrounds remind me that each person, regardless of wealth, has her own unique story. Second part of this lesson: you might not ever hear people’s stories if you don’t take the time to ask and listen.
Thank you Momentum donors, for all the lessons—please keep them coming!