If I hadn’t been so keen to make a contribution, it would have been easy to put it into the “too hard” basket.


How easy is it for an interested potential donor to make a contribution to your institution? Are all members of your institution—from the clinicians to the administrative assistants—aware of the process for accepting gratitude and making referrals to the foundation or development office? Making everyone in your organization aware of the appropriate steps to take will ensure that no potential donor is tempted to file his or her desire to make a contribution in the “too hard” basket.

Recently we interviewed a donor who told the story of wanting to make a contribution to the veterinary medicine college of a university as an expression of thanks for the devoted care they provided for a period of several years. “The idea of making a donation seemed like a total novelty to the staff and faculty at the clinic,” he says. He relates that he had to be quite persistent in his desire to show his appreciation. “They didn’t seem to know how to go about doing it. They would say, ‘Yes, I’ll look into it and get back you,’ but nothing would happen. A few weeks later, I’d ask again—‘Oh yes, sorry, I forgot all about that!’”

Eventually the donor just dropped off a check at the clinic. “The transaction was clunky,” he says. He made several contributions this way over a period of time. Eventually someone put him in touch with the development office.

Things took off from there. The development professional found that the donor, in addition to wanting to express gratitude, had a passion for supporting medical students. Working together, they were able to set up an endowed scholarship to support students as they worked toward becoming certified veterinarians.

“I just feel that everyone at the clinic—whether they’re receptionists, nurses, or clinicians—should know what to do with someone who wishes to show their appreciation in a tangible way. They should be able to say, ‘Yes, this is the person you should get in touch with, or we will have this person from the foundation contact you.’ I think that would make a big difference.”


Failing to educate faculty, staff, and clinicians on the role of the development office in working with donors ultimately denies donors of available joy, and the institution can lose out on a valuable philanthropic partnership. The institution also loses out on the example that donor can set for others. As this donor states, “Going that extra mile might help inspire other people to do the same as I’ve done.”

Ask and Act:

  • Are all members of your institution aware of the role the development office plays? Do they know the names and contact information for the development professionals who work with their department?
  • Do all members of your institution know the process for accepting gratitude? Do they know the process for making a referral?
  • Can your donor’s example inspire others? How can you capture that story and share it with others?

Click on the links below to access information about our public workshops that will help strengthen the culture of philanthropy at your organization.


Dynamics of Clinician Engagement

Professional Fundraising for Deans and Academic Leaders