Traditionally, Valentine’s Day isn’t my favorite holiday. Maybe because I feel like it was somewhat fabricated to sell greeting cards, maybe because as a teen in high school I didn’t have anyone send me valentines, or maybe because I choose to believe one should express love every day, and not just specially on a day that we’re told we should.
I love our work, and I love our people — staff, board, donors, nonprofit partners, everyone that’s working to make the Triangle the best place it can be for EVERYONE. And I feel that way most days, not just on February 14. But since today is Valentine’s Day…
My 14-year tenure at Triangle Community Foundation began on our Donor Services (then Philanthropic Services) team. I served as a liaison, then director of the team that helps our donors connect to causes they care about through grantmaking assistance, helps donors understand the nonprofit landscape, and manages the administration of funds. About 4 weeks after I started, I was assigned a one-week stint as the sole responder to our Donor Services Line, a general “help desk” that our donors can call for assistance with anything from resetting their web portal password to questions about fund balances and recommending grants. I learned a lot that week about the “logistics” of fund management and grantmaking, and it was a great way to connect, if only over the phone, with our donors.
Fast-forward 10 years, and it’s been a long time since I’ve had the privilege of “personing” this position. My desire to serve our donors continues to be a big part of why I love my work. But as we grow, we have new staff who shoulder that responsibility, and they do it amazingly well. Sometimes, though, I miss the satisfaction of solving a problem, answering a question, leading someone through their grantmaking: the tangible, logistical, and simple steps that lead to impact in our nonprofit sector and community.
Enter Laurel Shulman, our Donor Services Officer. Earlier this month, she came to me with a brilliant idea: why not answer the Donor Services Line for a day? It would be a chance to re-connect with some of our donors that I don’t often get to speak with, a chance to say thank you, and a chance to feel that tangible sense of satisfaction. I immediately signed on!
I’d like to say that I was inundated with calls. The reality was that the ability to conduct grantmaking online combined with the time of year meant my calls were few. But, it was still great to connect and to tell those who called how much I appreciate their investment in the Foundation. One of the callers who used to be one of “my” donors when I was a liaison even told me that she loved us, which just made my heart melt! The work that we’re able to do in the community would not be possible without our donor’s generosity of resources, intellect, passion, and spirit. Whether they are co-investing with us to develop community programs, investing in our scholarship funds to provide financial resources for students, or simply allowing us to help them think strategically with their family about their inter-generational giving, I am continuously grateful that they have chosen to partner with us for this work.
So as we plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day with our loved ones today, I’d like to send a special Valentine greeting to all of our donors: you hold a special place in my heart always, and I hope we share that love in return on Valentine’s Day and every day. We love you madly!
Contributing writer, Lori O’Keefe, is President and CEO of Triangle Community Foundation.