Volunteers and donors

By Leon A Smith
August 30, 2012

A big “thank you” to Esther Rantzen who kindly visited Nightingale House last week to chat and schmooze with our residents. Her presence brought an enormous amount of pleasure to everybody who came into contact with her and we are indebted to her for sparing the time to be with us.

Indeed, Nightingale House has been extremely fortunate in the past in having a number of celebrity visitors who come to meet with/talk to and get to know our residents. I only mention this because many celebrities do indeed give very generously of their time. They do this quietly, without the gaze of publicity and do it simply because they want to do it. Others may do it because they feel a sense of obligation. Others do it because they may have been “encouraged” by friends. In the end it really doesn’t matter – the most important thing is that our residents here at Nightingale House are benefitting regardless of motive.

I wonder whether the same could be said for volunteers generally. We all know that following the Olympics there has been a huge surge in recognition and valuing of voluneers. There can be no question that the incredible spirit of the volunteers throughout the Olympics added enormously to its success. They were people who were doing what they were doing because it was something which they wanted to do. Again, it doesn’t really matter why they wanted to do it. Was it a sense of obligation? I doubt it. It was probably more a sense of wanting to be involved in a major landmark event. Let us hope that this spirit of enthusiasm for volunteering will remain, both amongst those who volunteered during the Olympics and the wider public – and one would very much hope that there is now a significant increase in those offering to volunteer on a regular basis throughout the country. Certainly the 70,000 volunteers who participated in the Olympics will now have a great feeling of satisfaction from what they have contributed to the event and may well want to experience an ongoing feelgood factor through more regular volunteering. Anybody who is thinking of volunteering would be very welcome at Nightingale House or Hammerson House!

I have spoken before about the motives of those who make donations. Most people make charitable donations because they genuinely and truly want to support a particular organisation whose work they admire or respect. Other people may do so on the basis of religious obligation; others through peer pressure; others through guilt etc etc. Indeed, there may well be thousands of different reasons why people are motivated to support charities.

Again, does it really matter to the recipient? Charities such as Nightingale Hammerson could not exist without the generosity of a huge number of very generous people within the Jewish community. Everybody gives according to their ability yet a £10 donation from one person could be more of a sacrifice for that person than a £1,000 donation from another person. But as recipients we do not rank donations in order of the amount of sacrifice that the donor has experienced in giving to us. Neither does it matter to us why that person has given. The important thing is that they have given, the charity benefits and therefore the charity’s beneficiaries do as well.

Some people who give to charity want to be thanked. Others don’t want to be thanked. Some want wider recognition Others want no recognition. Some people donate during their lifetime. Others donate through their will, therefore receiving limited or no gratitude or appreciation from the benefitting charity. Indeed, it seems a great shame from a charity’s perspective that we are unable to thank those extremely generous people who have left us significant sums in their wills. In many cases here at Nightingale Hammerson we do not even know some of the people who have generously bequeathed us legacies, let alone being in a position to have thanked them during their lifetimes. How nice it would be if everybody who left us a legacy were kind enough to tell us this was indeed their intention so that we could say a real thank you to them whilst they were still alive.

In the America one particular concept of “giving” is through something called “planned giving”. This is where a person may make a financial commitment to an organisation, part of it to be received during their lifetime and the balance to be paid from their estate. This is really a nice practical way of giving, because it does mean that the donor may have the pleasure of seeing during their lifetime the real added value that their donation has made. It will also be satisfying for them to know that their gift will be acknowledged and remembered after they have passed on. This is not a concept which is widely used in the UK but perhaps it is something which needs further publicity and encouragement. Why not enjoy some of the recognition and thanks if that is what people want whilst they are still alive rather than this being experienced through their surviving family.

Ultimately what matters to Nightingale Hammerson is the wellbeing and quality of life of those for whom it cares. We are indebted to celebrities, volunteers and donors alike. Without their support and generosity the lives of our beneficiaries would be very different.


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