Every Dollar Looks Big to a Nonprofit

More than 40 years ago, comedian Steve Martin did an inflation routine that featured the line, “Gee, I got four dollars; I think I’ll throw it out into the street.” This came during the time of gas strikes and a recession in the 1970s, when many folks felt like their dollars weren’t going very far.

These days, four dollars looks infinitely smaller than it looked back then. In 21st Century America, we’ve been desensitized to dollar amounts up to and including those with 12 zeros after them (i.e. numbers in the trillions).

No surprise there: One hesitates to pay attention to numbers that big when they appear all the time with a negative sign and a dollar sign in front of them.

The problem for fundraisers, of course, is that when even a million dollars looks paltry, donors can easily feel that their “small” gifts won’t make much of a difference to your organization.

They need to know they’re wrong about that. It’s our job to tell them that every gift helps.

So it’s crucial for planned giving to be specific:

  • Let prospects know exactly how much good their donation will do in concrete, real-world terms.
  • Explain to them how important all donors are to accomplishing your organization’s mission.
  • Show them how all planned gifts contribute to growing your nonprofit’s endowment over the long term.
  • Emphasize that your gratitude for and recognition of their gift is based on the fact that every dollar looks big to your nonprofit.

And let’s all hope that one day in the future we won’t be so familiar with how many zeros there are in a trillion.

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