The Day I Remembered It Wasn’t About Me

italianrestaurantMY COLLEAGUE AND I were sitting in a small Italian restaurant waiting for Mr. Small Oil Company Owner (Soco) to show up.

I can’t remember exactly why I had called him to arrange a meeting. I’d been going through our donor files and noticed that Mr. Soco had been donating at a major gift level every fall for several years. As far as I could tell, we hadn’t really connected with him.

Maybe I contacted him to see if he would let us use his gift to leverage more money during our radio-a-thon. Maybe I just thought it was high time to meet Mr. Soco and catch him up on what we were up to.

We’d showed up early, so we could discuss how we were going to lead the conversation. Mr. Soco arrived on time and we made our introductions just as a basket of bread was making its way to the table. The Server took our drink and food orders and we began to engage in small talk.

Mr. Soco told us how he’d started his company 10 years earlier after having worked for a large oil company for many years. We found out he was married and had two sons who were grown. Our food came and there was a lull in our conversation.

We took advantage of the lull to talk about our organization.  We talked about our philosophy of care and the promising results we were seeing with our new focus on helping our clients become self-sufficient. I noticed Mr. Soco looking at his watch – we were losing him!

“Mr. Soco,” I interjected, “Why do you give to our organization?” Mr. Soco looked up from his salad. “I mean, what makes us a heart-connection for you?’

What followed was a moving story told with great conviction and passion. Mr. Soco’s eyes twinkled as he told me about his sons growing up. His words and body language oozed with pride over what they had made of themselves. He strongly believed that there is no reason, whatsoever, that a young, strong man shouldn’t be working. “It breaks my heart when young men can’t get work. A man feels like a man when he is able to provide for himself and his loved ones,” he said as his eyes welled with water.

I don’t think I knew it that day, but something magical happened when Mr. Soco shared his story. He ceased to be a ‘small oil company owner,’ I ceased to be a ‘fundraiser’ – we were just two people connecting – human to human, heart to heart.

I didn’t ask Mr. Soco for anything that day. But as we got up to leave, he touched my arm and said, “Thank you for asking me about my story. We need to get together again – soon.”

When is the last time you ask one of your donors about their heart-connection?

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate discussions that will help us all to better engage with our communities. Your participation and feedback are most welcomed and valued. Please join the discussion below.



  1. Wyrd Smythe

    We are recognizing that one great human need is the need to be heard by someone, to be able to tell our story to an interested listener. In this regard, blogging is, I think, perhaps a great benefit to many.

  2. Jean

    Yesterday was a 12-hr. long meeting for the city of Calgary’s Transportation and Transit Standing Committee. There were 37 individuals that represented organizations, while others were just citizens who really wanted to squeeze in their personal story why they were supporting the cycle track network plan which is only 2% of the total Transportation dept.’s budget. What struck me, were a few people who told the committee that although they volunteered for cycling advocacy groups or sat on the planning institute’s professional assoc., they gave their personal story what cycling does for them and how such a plan would humanize the city downtown core and make it more vibrant, traffic -calming and safer…

    They were giving their heart-connection. They didn’t have to. No one asked them. But they felt compelled to give their story in hopes the doubting public could make a personal connection.

    By the way, are you familiar with this free newsletter:

    • The Other Bottom Line

      I love this Jean. Our heart-connections and personal stories are most natural for us, don’t you think? I ran into the president of the Beltline community association the other day and we had a really good conversation about the proposed cycle track network. I hope it goes well when the City reviews it at the end of the month. Thanks for chiming in Jean.

      By the way, love the article you highlighted!

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