Just read this in the daily update from the Chronicle of Philanthropy:

Large Bequest Surprises Diabetes Charity
An 86-year-old Annapolis woman who died in a house fire last March shocked a diabetes group by bequeathing it the largest donation in the organization’s history — $7.3-million, reports The Washington Post.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which had known Helene Whitlock Alley primarily as a $100 donor, became the beneficiary of most of her estimated $8.5-million estate. The source of Mrs. Alley’s money remains unclear, although her deceased father was an accomplished businessman, and she owned Merck stock that she might have purchased before 1949, while she was a secretary with the company.

Mrs. Alley’s donation was motivated by her late brother’s battle with Type I diabetes. In her will, she described her brother’s struggle with the disease as “heart rending, frightening, and inspiring.” Mrs. Alley intended her donation “to further the research to help find a cure for diabetes that at no time requires a diabetic patient to take an organ-rejection agent” after a transplant of pancreatic cells.

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Two take aways:

  1. You need to treat all donors well. Whatever this group did, they certainly kept her feeling like she was part of their “family.”
  2. You never know what other forces are compelling people to make gifts. This woman had a sibling struggle with diabetes.

    Let me rephrase that: If you don’t engage your donors, you’ll never know what forced are compelling them to make gifts.

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