July’s Supporter of the Month is 826michigan’s Community of Individual Donors!
by Amy Wilson
Hello. I’m Amy Wilson, 826michigan’s soon-to-be-former Communications Coordinator. You may not know me, but I probably know you.
If you’ve donated to 826michigan in the past four years — with a check; over PayPal; as one of our monthly Sustaining Donors; to a friend’s team in Trivia for Cheaters, the Spelling Bee for Cheaters, the Big House Big Heart 5k run, the Great Write-Off, etc; in honor of a loved one’s birthday or wedding; at a fundraising dinner like Sweater Weather or Storymakers; in response to one of our annual appeal mailers; or just because — if you’ve donated to 826michigan in the past four years, I know you.
In that time it’s been my responsibility to process your donations and issue your thank you letters. I don’t know whether I was born loving spreadsheets, mail-merges, and envelope-stuffing or if this job helped me love those things, but love them I do! The work may seem menial, but it’s been surprisingly meaningful to me, and doing it has taught me some important things. I wanted to make sure to share them with you before I leave.
1. The vast majority of your generosity is silent and humble. Because I do this job and process these checks, I happen to know of the many people in our community who have built giving into their lives with naturalness and ease. These are people who give with no expectation of recognition, who give as part of their routine of adult, developed life. This is most of you. And this truly is as important to 826michigan’s work as any major grant we have ever received. I don’t know how to say that so it doesn’t sound cheesy, but also, I have observed it to be true.
2. Only connect. Some of my favorite donations to receive at 826michigan are those marked “in honor of”. Birthdays. Weddings. Father’s Day. Parents and friends who give to recognize the work of one of our many dedicated volunteers. This is not even to mention our many “peer-to-peer fundraisers” like Trivia for Cheaters and Mustache-a-Thon, wherein brave people volunteer to do something unusual and to recruit donations in service of that unusual thing and of 826michigan’s programs. We try to communicate how astonishing it is to see our volunteers and friends activate their social groups in this way, but it is hard to communicate. Suffice to say: it’s really cool, and it gives ya faith that, in this world where the word “social” means something different than it once did, human connection still really matters.
3. It goes one step at a time. If you’ve been following 826michigan for a few years, you know that we’ve grown a lot and that we’re always trying to keep growing. We’re facing our tenth anniversary in 2015, and anniversaries make you think about things. As in, if we’re having a tenth anniversary, that someday we’ll have a fifteenth, and a twentieth, etc. But those considerations fade in the light of the actual questions we ask ourselves around here, like “what’s our plan for the fall?” and “how are we going to do that thing next week?”. Everything you see about 826michigan today was built with the tiniest bricks, of volunteer hours and $20 donations and the next step. And, as you can see, it adds up.
So, back to you. We may not have actual bricks with your names on them, or actual buildings to name for you, but I know you. I’ve folded a letter with your name on it. And in many cases, I’ve folded more letters with your name on them than I can count. We started this Supporter of the Month thing so we could publicly recognize those individuals and businesses who had made a significant difference to 826michigan, but we didn’t count on all of you who wouldn’t want public recognition. And here it is — I hope you can see yourself here.
If you’ve donated to 826michigan in the past four years, or in the years before that, or if you will next week or next month, I just want you to know that you’ve been part of something and that you matter very much to us. I’m leaving 826michigan very soon, so I want to start figuring out what I’ve learned from being here. And much of it I’ve learned from you, 826michigan’s community of individual donors — from you, I’ve learned something about how to be good.