For an organization like Real Change that depends so heavily on individual, grassroots donations, it’s pretty scary to operate the whole year in a deficit and have our fiscal fate come down to the month of December. In fact, in the typical year, 35 to 40 percent of all our donations show up in December, and most of them in the last two weeks. As I write this piece, we are five days from the end of the year and about 70 percent of the way toward our $150,000 goal. Success is within our grasp.
Donations to nonprofits tend to fall off during election years and, in fact, we have felt the pinch throughout 2012. However, perhaps buoyed by Democratic victories in the fall, our donors have stepped up during this Holiday Fund drive, and have opened their hearts and pocketbooks to support Real Change. We have received 568 gifts already this fund drive, and I feel grateful and appreciative for every single one. Yet there are two gifts that stand out.
The first was an anonymous gift that we received last week for $30,000. For small nonprofits like us, anonymous donations such as this come as unexpected boons, kind of like the sponsor gifts that float down from the sky to participants in “The Hunger Games.” They also leave us unable to appropriately convey our gratitude to the donor and let him or her know how much the gift means to the organization. To all of our anonymous donors, and especially the person who made the $30,000 gift, please accept Real Change’s deep gratitude. We would not have the opportunity to meet our fundraising goals were it not for your generous and selfless support.
The other gift that stands out for me was not directly related to the fund drive, but still was meaningful. About two weeks ago, we received 12 quality sleeping bags in the mail, followed by three nice tents, with a note from the donor expressing a desire that the gear be directed to vendors. This donor had participated in a campout to protest the city’s lack of funding for survival services, which Real Change organized in October. His donation of over $1,000 worth of sleeping bags and tents for our vendors was his way of contributing to the survival of those who live on the streets.
The timing of his gift could not have been better. We were preparing for our annual vendor holiday party, and the budget was especially tight this year. We needed some special prizes to give out. When we called to thank the donor, we invited him to the event. He agreed to come, but only on the condition that he help serve the vendors their meals, and not be acknowledged for his gift.
The party, it turned out, was a wonderful celebration of our vendors. I thanked the donor in person and told him how much the vendors appreciated the bags and tents. He replied, with the utmost humility, that it sucked that we lived in a world where people were so grateful for outdoor survival gear.
He’s right, I thought, but I also breathed a sigh of gratitude that we have a community of donors that cares enough to help.