Once you meet Nick you cannot forget him. He is the kind of person who is genuinely interested in other people; he listens with his entire being, not just with his ears. Nick is an actor, and like all good actors, a keen observer. He notices little details, but sees the big picture. And everyone who enters Nick’s life becomes important to him.

I joined the ranks of people-who-are-important-to-Nick many years ago when I hired him for one of our seminars. (Cygnus uses plays and scenes with professional actors to bring fundraising challenges to life. It’s a great learning tool.)

After our first gig together, Nick sent me a beautiful letter to tell me how much he had enjoyed the opportunity of working on something so different. He said that he was proud to be in the company of the other fine actors that make up our troupe, and that he had learned so much about fundraising through this experience.

Working actors go where the work is and Nick is no exception. As he moves from film to play to commercial, I hear from him from time to time. Sometimes he sends an email but, more often, it’s a letter in the mail. Over the years I have come to recognize his correspondence by the handwriting on the envelope (yes, he sends hand-written letters). The first delight is reading the return address on the back. Because he works all over the country, each of Nick’s letters comes from a different place. “I wonder what play he is in now,” is my first thought. Once he wrote to me on the back of a piece of wallpaper trimmed from the set of his current production. (“…no time to run out for writing paper between rehearsals, but I just wanted to let you know where I am and that I’m hoping you are well…”)

Nick’s letters are usually brief, but they always include an observation about what he’s experiencing and a reflection on the last time we worked together. The real message, though, always shines through: he is thinking about me and he appreciates our association.

There are about 500,000 professional actors in the US and Canada, and on any given day 99% of them are looking for work. So, when I want actors for my seminars, I have an endless supply of superbly talented and exceptionally eager people from whom to choose. Still, I hire Nick.

There are about 1.2 million not-for-profits in the US and Canada, and on any given day 100% of them are trying to figure out how to hold onto their donors. If Nick were a fundraiser, he’d have that problem solved.

Showing 3 comments
  • Connie Harris

    What a lovely friend to take the time to put pen to paper, Penelope. I am “old” fashioned and believe nothing should leave my office w/o a personal note (and my handwriting is not great..and our president does the same).
    Thanks for sharing this good story with us all!

  • John-Peter Wilhite

    Although technology has done so much for society one of the drawbacks is many people, not all, have moved away from hand written notes and letters. These jesters of the hand bring so much joy to many and express so much more. I make sure all thank yous from our agency get a personal hand written note because I know how people value them. Thank you for this wonderful reminder of one of the best ways to connect with our donors.

  • Shawn Verdoni

    My first fundraising book was “Donor-Centered Fundraising” and I had the priviledge of going to one of your workshops held in Chicago that reviewed your findings. Personal notes are core to what I do and I use the book as evidence that it makes good business sense as well.

    Thank you for sharing another great example why the personal touch is so important!

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