When I was a little girl, despite the fact that we aren’t Christians, I LOVED Advent calendars.

Mind you, I had no clue what Advent was beyond the vague understanding that something wonderful happened at the end of it, having to do with babies (I was a little unclear on the concept that it was this specific baby). And I loved getting a surprise-a-day.

Today I see that in fact, I did understand Advent on the most important level–that every day brings gifts; anticipation building toward an apotheosis; that all you have to do is open the door.

It’s a wonderful metaphor for nonprofits.

Every day brings gifts
Especially at this time of year this is literally true in not-for-profit. Not sure which is the chicken and which is the egg, but charities ask more and people give more in the month of December. So yes, for the development office, the mail is its own little advent calendar full of surprises in December.

But that check is not the only gift you’re getting. Every check represents someone’s connection to your cause, or evidence that you moved them to connect.  Think about this when writing those thank you notes–make it a little less generic at this time of year especially, and let every donor know that their gift not only helps the charity, but brings some joy to real people.

We write a lot about goals, and Metrics is the latest goddess of foundation giving. But here in the fundraising office we tend to see the cause in tiny chunks, represented by those checks. So think about taking all those How to Write A Fund Appeal Letter articles that you consume and turning them on their heads. Let’s see, you’re supposed to connect each gift to a real outcome for the donor, right? “A dollar a day feeds a child.”

As you open those little advent doors, think about the apotheothis–how many children did you feed today? (Or whatever).  And by “you” I mean you, the fundraiser. You did this too. Thank yourself. Maybe that thank you letter could read, “today I opened xx number of gifts to our cause. Together, you and I and others fed a hundred children.”

All you have to do is open the door
It’s not so hard, is it? Especially this month, don’t get lost in the bean counting. Every envelope you open is a door into someone’s heart.