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December 04, 2018

The Prize at the Bottom of the Cracker Jack Box

The Prize at the Bottom of the Cracker Jack Box


Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us we’re here for something else besides ourselves.
—Eric Sevareid


As the year winds to a close, people everywhere—including development professionals—are working feverishly to meet their year-end goals. In the rush to accomplish everything, it’s easy to lose sight of why we do what we do. Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, the attention given to the holiday season serves as a perfect reminder to stop and reflect on the importance of what you do.


A recent interview with a donor underscores perfectly what skillful development professionals get to experience on a daily basis—that philanthropy can be a source of great joy and satisfaction.


Even though my husband’s father was a farmer and his mother was a school teacher, they sent him to law school. It was a huge sacrifice on their part, and he knew it. A cousin paid for my college education because my parents didn’t have the money. Education was something we both felt strongly about—we saw it as a road that people could take to better their lives.

While this donor couple gained satisfaction from making contributions to higher education, they were still in the “ought to” phase. They didn’t think about their contribution in terms of the impact it was having or could have—they were primarily concerned about regularly giving.


After the couple retired, they set up a small foundation using money from the husband’s retirement package. Then the husband began having serious health issues that required an organ transplant and, later, treatment for cancer. During the process of the organ transplant, the couple became philanthropically engaged with the hospital. “Right after my husband’s transplant surgery—he was still in the hospital—he said he’d like to make a contribution to the hospital. I concurred,” the donor states. Again, it was an “ought to” contribution—they were glad their hospital was able to provide the services they needed and understood the importance of providing support to keep the hospital strong and innovative.


A conversation between the donor and a doctor helped her realize that she could further the couple’s two areas of interest—education and health care—by philanthropically supporting a scholarship fund for doctors to attend conferences. Development professionals helped her narrow down her list of choices. The donor’s engagement deepened, not only because she was able to support two areas that were important to her, but also because she was able to name the scholarship fund in her husband’s memory. The donor experienced great joy in being able to help others.


I like helping people. It’s a kind of gratitude, I feel, but also providing a sense of hope for someone else. It’s like opening a Cracker Jack box for someone. There’s going to be a prize inside, and that prize is giving help to somebody else. To see somebody’s delight when that box is opened—that’s why I do what I do.

Set aside a few moments in the rush of the last few weeks of the year to reflect on the satisfaction you derive from the important work of helping to provide "Cracker Jack boxes" for others. Share your favorite reflection in the comment section below.


The end of the year is also a perfect time to set your sights on goals for next year and make plans for achieving them. To that end, consider attending one of our public workshops.





Other posts you might be interested in:


Meaningful Gifts—A Holiday Message

Meaningful Gifts—A Holiday Message

The Gift of Giving

The Gift of Giving

Leading By Example: The Power of a Fundraiser Who Gives

Leading by Example: The Power of a Fundraiser Who Gives



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