Buying Ugly Socks and Answering For Donors

Last week I sat in a major gift donor prospect management meeting with a client and listened as a gift officer said, “What we know from visits and our research is that John (the donor) has the capacity to make a $5 million gift during our campaign.  But I just don’t think he will give that much so I would suggest we ask for much less.”

With that, the Vice President got up from the meeting table and walked over to her desk drawer and pulled out a bag.  “Have I told you the story of my socks?” she asked?

Everyone, including me, wondered if the Vice President was losing it.  We were talking about leadership-level gifts and donors and she is pulling out a bag of socks from her desk.  All of the gift officers around the table kind of looked at each other as if to say, “what on earth is going on?”

“No, I’m serious,” she said, sort of laughing.  “Look at these!”  And with that she pulled out this pair of 100% cashmere socks.

Don't answer for major gift donors

Don’t answer for major gift donors

Take a close look at the price tag. . . one hundred and five bucks!  The socks were passed around and the vice president said,

Who on earth would anyone pay $105 for this pair of ugly socks?  I know I wouldn’t!  I only paid $6 for them.  I don’t even like them.  But I bought them because someone out there – probably a lot more people than we would guess – paid the full price for these socks.  Real people paid $105 for socks.  I don’t understand it, but they will and they have.

With that she continued,

Our job is not to answer for our donors.  Our job is to understand their motivations and their giving capacity and then offer charitable opportunities that align with their capacity and motivations.  That’s our job.  Their job is to give us an answer.  Let’s make sure we stay focused on our job.

Because someone out there is paying $105 for ugly socks.



  1. Interesting way to get her point across, but it is valid. Someone will pay $105 for a pair of socks, and someone will also donate X amount of dollars to a campaign they feel strongly about.

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