Random Thoughts on Life and Work

December 21, 2006

The Committed Donor (The Power of The “Thank You”)

I am back after a brief hiatus due to recent surgery!  About time too!

I have a story to share about a recent experience the proves the value of the simple “Thank You”.  It involves a donor who is committed to the organization and its mission, eBay and its partnership with The Points of Light Foundation through MissionFish, and yours truly.

Part of my job is to work with donors who want to give to our organization through unique methods.  Things like 3rd party sales arrangements, eBay sales, fundraisers, etc.  The organization I work for is registered with MissionFish which has an arrangement with eBay to process sales that have a charitable component to them (a percentage of sales is designated to a particular charity). 

A couple of weeks ago, I received a notice from MissionFish that a seller had posted an item for sale with 100% of the sales proceeds going to benefit us.  This was the first time that this particular seller had done this so, as part of my regular duties, I logged in to the sale (verified that it wasn’t an item that would go against our corporate values) and through the comment/question process posted a thank you to this donor.  Now the interesting thing about this sale was that it was nothing more than a picture of himself.  Very unusual.  Normally I would have declined the benefit arrangement but since the bids were already at $26.00 or so, I thought there wasn’t any real harm in it and let it go. 

donor1.jpgAfter thanking the seller, I received a response letting me know that he did it as a challenge from some of his friends.  In his words, “I told them that if someone could sell their fingernail clippings, I could surely sell a picture of myself.”  After exchanging e-mails, it became clear that this particular individual was highly committed to our organization and had participated with us in various volunteer capacities.  But he had never made a financial donation. 

 The bids continued to climb and within a few days had reached $500.  The seller “found” a donor willing to match the amount that came in as the final bid and that prompted some more bidding.  (The matching gift was from the seller himself.)  The story eventually got picked up by a number of radio stations (California to Michigan) and one TV station in the seller’s area and the bids continued to climb.  (The donor works for a advertising agency so that may have had something to do with the spread of the information.)  At the end of the auction, the picture sold for over $1,100.  In the meantime, he sold two additional pictures, also benefitting us, for a total of $700.  All told, this donor raised over $3,000 through a simple thing such as an eBay auction for a simple picture.  Now here is the lesson for all of us:

  1. Provide avenues for your donors to interact with you that you would not normally think of as communication streams.
  2. Monitor the internet and those unusual avenues for the opportunity to interact with your donors.
  3. A simple thank you can go a long way.
  4. If the activity is not offensive or does not go counter to your mission or organization’s culture, don’t worry so much about control.
  5. Whenever and wherever possible, get out of the way of your donors.

Your donors can be powerful advocates for you through very simple activities.  Help them help you!



  1. Do you have a picture of the ebay sale? That’s a great story… but I feel like I need to complete the story with the visual 🙂

    Comment by a fundraiser — December 21, 2006 @ 11:28 pm | Reply

  2. Great and inspiring story!

    I did my first fundraising auction on eBay years ago (1999? 2000?) when I was with HandsNet. We raised about $15,000 at that time by selling mousepads with our logo that we had sent to celebrities to autograph.

    Don’t dismiss ideas like these for being silly – Love them for being original and different enough to attract attention.

    Comment by Ken G. — January 2, 2007 @ 1:39 pm | Reply

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