Letter to a Deceased Woman

There is no act of kindness greater than a bequest gift to your favorite charitable organization. Yet, only 7% of donors in America have left a gift to charity. Also, bequest donors are reluctant to identify themselves while they are alive.  This letter was first published in a Catholic Charities newsletter in 2003. It’s purpose was to remind the organization of how important each and every donor is….how we can never take their gifts for granted. And, also, to thank every generous bequest donor as we encourage others to do the same.

Dear Charlotte:

One year ago, just prior to Thanksgiving, we learned of your death. We had invited you to attend our annual Thanksgiving mass. The post office returned the invitation with a label marked “undeliverable/deceased.”

Fortunately, Teresa, one of our data entry staff members recognized your name. She remembered, years ago, you had made arrangements with four banks, to have Catholic Charities the ‘pay-upon death’ beneficiary of your money-market accounts.

You passed away April, 2003. It just so happens that in October 2003 Catholic Charities was going through an unusually difficult cash-flow shortage. By November our leadership was having serious conversations about cut-backs. Then, the news came to us, a women named Charlotte, a donor we never knew, had left us a gift at each of four banks. The total was $543,187. Our cash flow shortage was over.

Charlotte, I want you to know not a single day has passed when I have not gone to our Good Samaritan Chapel to say a prayer for you and all of the people you have helped through your extraordinary donation. Our President, Jim Stutz and I had a conversation a few day’s after depositing your gift. We vowed from that day forward we will never forget you- the women named Charlotte. We vowed to hold ourselves accountable in this way….we will imagine that you reside at the head of our meeting table… from time to time you will ask us “what did you do with my money?”

This last year, your money (and that of other donors as well), helped us to collect and distribute more than a million pounds of food to families who were hungry, more than 120,000 meals were served to the homeless, more than 1,700 unemployed adults were given job skills training and job search assistance, nearly 33,000 children and 36,000 older adults were provided compassionate care.

Charlotte, we invite you to reside at our meetings. We want to share more details. We want you to know more about our plans and aspirations. You will continue to challenge us to do more on behalf of the poor. We promise we will have a good answer to your question, “what did you do with my money?” My only regret, Charlotte, is I was never able to thank you when you were still alive. Thank you.


Daniel R. Shasserre

Dan’s Top Five Reason to Hire a Consultant, NOW July 2009

For some organizations, July 1 signals mid-year, the beginning of the dog days of summer, vacation days for you and other members of staff, a time when its hard to get things done. Yet, before you know it, another fundraising event is just around the corner. The year-end direct mail campaign has to be planned. And, by the way, how are you going to pull out from the current deficit?

For other organizations, July 1 signals a fresh start. It’s a new fiscal year, you’ve
closed the books on a difficult year and now your Board is expecting a complete turn around. The lump in your throat begins to bulge. How are you going to increase revenue in this fundraising environment?
Do you need some help?

Reason Number One…

Your Board of Directors seem to be dissatisfied with the fundraisng results, yet,
they fail to recognize their fundamental responsibilities.

Why don’t they read the by-laws and do what Boards are supposed to do? Why are they not responding as you expect them to?

What can you do to “light the fire” moving members from passive to engaged, from complacent to committed?

Reason Number Two…
Your annual fundraising revenue is off 10% (or more) and your development department has offered no viable plans to improve results.

Come on now, this is an easy one. The answer is probably found by studying your database. A quick fundraising audit will discover where problems exist, why they exist, and how to fix it fast.

So, for a “fix-it-fast” audit assessment, you may need a consultant.

Reason Number Three…

Your organization is not growing your major gift program year after year. The number of new donors is not growing, the number of lost donors is growing, and net revenue is disappointing.

This is a significant problem of great concern. A healthy non-profit organization is growing their major gift donor numbers year after year, regardless of economic conditions. If you are not, you have symptoms of an organizational illness.

Perhaps, a fundraisng consultant could help you out.

Reason Number Four…

Your organization has inconsistent planned giving results. In fact, bequest revenue is something you seldom see. Your organization has never really been much good at planned gifts. You can’t afford the expertise. Plus, are these delayed annuity gifts really worth the effort?

If this scenario sounds like your organization you are negligent-way behind where you need to be. If your organization is ten years or older and you do not have an effective planned giving program you are definitely leaving money on the table.

I can say for sure, you definitely need a consultant.

Reason Number Five…

Your organization is the best kept secret in town You have no brand image awareness.When it comes to marketing, communications, public relations you are not among the top players in the non-profit world. And, to top it off, you don’t have a budget for such things. Never had one, never will.

One of the myths that circles through non-profit organizations is that you can’t
build your brand awareness without a big budget.

Have you ever shared your problem with a consultant?