We’re all guilty of it. We use a word so often, so randomly, that its real meaning gets lost. Sadly, that is the case now with the most important word in fundraising! The other day a friend offered an important reminder.

We were talking over coffee about relationships. She smiled. “I actually have a great story about that,” and she told it to me.

“I first met this person through one of her employees. She had been a sporadic donor to us, giving maybe $1,000 every so often.

“Over the next three years I practiced ‘intentional cultivation’ and stewardship of her annual gifts. I reached out to remember special occasions in her life and created opportunities for her to learn more about our organization.

“She became a close friend.

“One day during a stewardship visit, she got up and closed her office door. She had recently learned she would be the sole heir of a large estate and wanted to include our organization in her plans. A $1.6 million gift followed a few months later.

“Rob, thanks for asking me to share that story. It helps to keep those wins in mind. They teach us about the possibilities when we take the time and make the effort to build genuine relationships.

“Was the gift unexpected? Yes.

“Would the gift have come our way without the relationship? No.”