The Bee and Jupiter

A queen bee wanted to take a present to Jupiter and took some fresh honey from her hive. Jupiter was so delighted that he promised to grant her any wish. She requested that bees be given stings and that any human who stole their honey would die. Jupiter granted her request but with a twist, that any sting that entered a human would stay with the human and the bee would die instead.

This speaks to me about an enthusiastic major gift executive who does a great job in appreciating their donor and offering relevant thank you gifts. In some cases they are in such awe of their prospective philanthropist that when the donor offers to do something for them they cannot resist saying ‘introduce me to some of your friends’. There is nothing wrong with this request and in some cases it is very appropriate if the donor has given a major gift themselves and experienced that joy of giving. However, in this particular fable there was a sting in the tail and there can be for an executive too.

An executive was delighted when their prospective philanthropist introduced a friend who was happy to hold a wine tasting for their charity in their beautiful home. It turned out the friend needed help to organise this event and before long the executive was drowning in extra work holding meetings with the friend, coming up with further names to invite and assisting on the day with lots of work that distracted from their job.

The event went ok but the friend didn’t want too much information about the charity dominating the event. The executive had a lovely time on the day but took their eye off the ball. The focus was on socialising and tasting the delicious wines. (Tough work!) The sting in the tail was that no-one wanted to hear more about the charity or become further involved after the event.

There are lots of lessons to be learned from this true story. Firstly, the prospective philanthropist hadn’t given a personal major gift before introducing the friend and in essence was palming off the executive on to someone else before showing their own commitment and certainly before being open to their heart being touched by the cause.

Secondly, the executive accepted too easily the offer of an event by the friend without further exploring the purpose of the day and identifying its outcomes. A lot of time was wasted for no tangible outcome. The executive felt let down and the friend was oblivious to this disappointment, thinking they had offered something useful for the charity. This is a common tale and before accepting the offer of an event I would try and engage the individual first in understanding and responding to your mission, then and only then will they become an effective ambassador.

Does this sound familiar? What is your experience?

Ruth is the principal and founder of Ascent Philanthropy, author of two books and passionate about helping non-profits with their major gift programmes by offering advice for introducing a new major gift programme or enhancing the productivity of the philanthropy team

2 Comments on “The Bee and Jupiter

  1. Another great post Ruth, well written and thought provoking. I’ve not had much experience of this environment yet, but will certainly be on the look out for it in the future!

    I guess clarity and good boundaries up front really help here too?

    Many thanks,

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