FYI Blog

Find Where You Belong

Every year about this time, I pack up the kids and set out for Nantucket. At the same time, across the country, my two best friends are doing the same. For the past 13 years, we have met up at a beach house for a summer week of relaxation, traditions, and above all, the best quality time I could ask for.

We pick up where we left off without skipping a beat, falling into the easy conversations and trusted confidences of old friendships. This annual touch point is one of the most anticipated and important weeks of the year for each of us. Everything is safe and familiar as we listen, challenge each other, and laugh—out of the contained bubbles of our own daily lives.

I write this as I’m packing for this year’s trip—reflecting on all that I have to share with my friends, and wondering what they will share with me. Our marriages are evolving, or maybe ending. Our parents are aging, or maybe gone. So we’re making serious decisions about the future. Our kids are approaching college age, and we’re anticipating all that comes with the family dynamics of the empty nest.

I’m probably going to forget about marketing for a week, but for now, I’m thinking about the connections we make in our lives, and the meaning they have for us—which is what marketing is all about anyway.

Nonprofits are constantly seeking ways to forge deep connections with donors: the right messaging, the right channel, the right time, the right offer. Bringing donors in by building meaningful connections and making them feel like they belong in our organization, makes them stick with us over time. Our research shows that for many organizations, most $1,000+ donors begin by making donations of less than $100. So we engage, cultivate, upgrade, and tell them about our challenges and successes—always helping our donors find lasting meaning in their generosity.

Recently, I was reminded by a colleague how that extends to planned giving, where we know that sowing the seeds for legacy giving through relationship building with mid-level donors can prove fruitful in the future. Show them where they belong.

When I reluctantly return from Nantucket and my favorite week of the year with my favorite people, I remind myself that I have similar support groups here at home. The “Sideline Sisterhood” of women who engage in girlfriend therapy while spending hours watching our kids play sports…or book club, where we might not get around to talking about the book in question, because there are other pressing matters to discuss.

It’s all about our groups of people—where we belong, are loved, are wanted, and are needed. We’re all looking for real connections in this world of virtual noise. Radha Agrawal, writing in a recent Glamour magazine (Is Your Tribe Helping or Hurting Your Mental Health?) discusses the importance of bringing people into your life who share your values, challenge you, and provide support.

She writes, “Research at the University of California, Berkeley, found that twenty-somethings report feeling lonely twice as often as people in their fifties and sixties, despite having large social networks. Perhaps worse: We’ve forgotten about the importance of the collective we, as if belonging was just icing on the cake.”

That “collective we” is where we need to bring our donors. To show them how their support makes a difference: how small gifts from many add up to tangible results for all. The power of we overcomes the feelings of helplessness in this time of political turmoil.

So I will go on my vacation and bask in the warm glow of family, friendship, and the Nantucket sun. We’ll have the familiarity of each other and the beach house, but we’ll try new things within the safety of our group. We’ll build on shared experiences and bring that home with us, holding onto that warmth until we make the trek to Nantucket again next year.

When I come home—rejuvenated and affirmed—I will carry that sense of belonging to my client work, as we build real relationships with donors and remind them why our client organizations are where they belong.


Time Warp! 2009…


…and 2018.