Don’t judge your donors by the way they dress

Snip20150207_52The US morning show, NBC’s Today Show, reported this week about a gentleman who lived very modestly in the US state of Vermont. In fact, he lived so modestly no one had any idea he was worth about $8 million…until he passed away and left it all to charity.

According to the story, Ron Read, a janitor surprised everyone when he left $4.8 million to the local hospital – Brattleboro Memorial Hospital – and the remaining $1.2 million to the local library – Brooks Memorial Library.

His estate attorney says Read told her he had money. And, the estate attorney did not believe him because of “the way he dressed”. She said he typically dressed in a worn coat, flannel shirt and baseball cap. The attorney adds “never judge someone across the table for what they look like”.

Two institutions that impacted Read’s life while he was alive are now being impacted by Read after his death. In fact, both organisations say the gift Read left is the largest they have received. Simply put, Read has left the community stunned.

Think of the time and attention we pay to people, in and outside of the fundraising world, based on the way they look. Think of the time we spend in this business on high value donors simply based on what they give out of pocket today. Read likely did not give money while he was alive. Some reported they tried to buy him a meal in the hospital cafeteria based on the fact he looked like he was in need.

I love this story because it indicates to me that someone at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and someone at Brooks Memorial Hospital thought he enough to care for Mr Read no matter how others may judge him. And, in the end, he recognised the caring received and the services provided by the hospital and the library.