This Thanksgiving I am thankful for people like Bob

IMG_20151124_165228090[1]First, let me start by wishing you and your non-profit organizations a very Happy Thanksgiving! My plane landed at a crazy, busy O’Hare airport yesterday and now I have the luxury of three straight days at home with family and friends (and let’s not forget the turkey and trimmings . . . Mmmmmm!) Since it is Thanksgiving Day, I was going to simply re-post an old blog such as:

But after giving it a little thought over my first cup of coffee this morning, I decided to share a quick story about what happened to me on Tuesday.
I was on the road visiting clients and decided my spirits might be lifted if I did a little volunteer work. So, I rolled up my sleeves and helped serve a few hundred plates of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes & gravy, and corn to children participating in an after-school program. It did my soul good and reminded me that I work with non-profit organizations for a reason.
My fellow food server was a board volunteer whose name was Bob. As we scooped the stuffing and potatoes and plated the turkey, Bob regaled me with countless stories about his volunteerism.  The following is a quick synopsis of a few noteworthy stories:

  • Bob has served on the board for . . . ummmm . . . let’s just say he has served for many decades
  • He has raised countless dollars for the organization (via special events, talking with elected officials, and simply soliciting friends in his circle of influence)
  • He has served the organization in many volunteer capacities both internally and externally (via national organization committees)
  • He helped get this organization’s first Thanksgiving dinner for its kids/members off the ground
  • He encouraged his son to volunteer for an organization with the same mission in a different state
  • He shared pearls of wisdom with me such as “Boards either have vision or they don’t” and “It doesn’t matter what type of fundraising campaign or event you choose to run because your success will be determined by who you have sitting around the table.”

Bob has cultivated a legacy of volunteerism that all of us should celebrate!
As I think back to my time on the front line as a middle manager and ultimately an executive director, I sometimes fell into the trap of lamenting things that volunteers didn’t do such as:

  • miss a committee or board meeting
  • drag their feet on soliciting prospects/donors and turning in their completed pledge cards
  • fail to do something they committed to doing

IMG_20151124_165234801[1]Bob’s gift to me this Thanksgiving (and he didn’t even know he was giving me this gift) is a reminder about how special and important volunteers are to all of our organizations in spite of our human imperfections.
Seriously, without board members or fundraising volunteers, where would we be? How could we afford to operate our business models?
As the Thanksgiving meal started winding down, the organization’s staff invited a few kids to step up to the microphone and share with a packed gymnasium full of people an answer to the following question: “What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving season?
One child stepped up the microphone and said he was thankful for his “Xbox“. That response got lots of little kid giggles. A second child, who must have been 7-years-old, confidently stepped to the microphone and boldly said “I am thankful for my mom, my dad and my brother.” That response got a big ‘ol “Awwwww” from the crowd.
If the microphone would’ve been passed in my direction, I think I would’ve said, “I am thankful for people like Bob, who understand non-profits and get what volunteerism is all about.”
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Enjoy the food, but more importantly enjoy the fellowship. And thank you to all of the board members and volunteers for all that you do for our clients and organizations.
If this blog post has you thinking that you should invest a little more time, energy and effort in “volunteer appreciation,” then I suggest you click over to what Wild Apricot blog’s “Volunteer Appreciation Guide” and check it out. I promise that you’ll find lots of good stuff to compliment your turkey, potatoes and stuffing.   🙂
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


  1. Right on target, Erik! Fundraising campaigns are as successful as the board members sitting around the table and providing leadership, identifying prospects, making their own gifts, and soliciting gifts from others. It is just that simple! Boards that think that someone else is going to make that happen are delusional. A professional such as the paid leader or a consultant can help organize a campaign, keep a schedule on track, provide guidance, and even solicit, but in the end it is really who sits around the active board table. Great article, once again my friend…

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