The WOW moment (part 1)

Published by Julie Verhaar on

Three months ago I was part of an audience listening to Karen Osborne giving a presentation on ‘Stewardship’. Great presentation, as usual, most of which I had heard before. But at the same time we can’t hear enough about the importance of being donor centric, delivering on the promise, showing the impact. It makes me realize we can still do much better.

But there was something else in Karen’s presentation that triggered me. That I kept thinking about. She was talking about the WOW-moment (not meaning the ‘normal’ things like delivering on the promise). And when asking the audience: when was the last time we were ‘WOW-ed’ by an organization and when was the last time we were really pleasantly surprised, I realized I couldn’t think of any example.To explain what a WOW-moment is, she described one of her experiences and I expect she doesn’t mind me sharing this with you. Because, if we would all engage in creating WOW-moments, it would change our fundraising into real stewardship.

Karen shared with us her getting a tour at a shelter of Kids in Distress. KiD provide shelter for abused and neglected children and families in need in Florida. At the end of the tour she wrote a cheque of 1.000 USD. This meant to be a one time, unrestricted gift. Because as most donors, she supports a more or less fixed selection of charities and she had no intention of adding KiD to that list.

She received the EXPECTED Thank you letter, acknowledging her gift. Then she started receiving newsletters, which she ignored as it was only a one time gift and moreover because it was also EXPECTED.

Eight months later, when the area was hit by 4 hurricanes she received this email from Kids in Distress. The email contained a picture of the staff and the children. She EXPECTED an ask but the message she received was: Your building stood, Your generator worked, Your children are safe! Thank you again for your support, we hope you are safe too. Let us hear from you.

The WOW-moment…..the impact of her gift was shared with her and they asked her if SHE was safe. The result, Karen wrote another cheque. Even though there was no ask for money in the email, KiD raised more money than with any other appeal ever. The WOW-moment is about the UNEXPECTED. More about this subject in part 2 of this blog post!

Julie Verhaar

Julie joined UNICEF International at the end of 2010, from Greenpeace International. Before that she had built up the fundraising unit at the Netherlands Red Cross. She has experience across a wide range of fundraising disciplines and was responsible for a number of innovative cross media campaigns. At UNICEF Julie works to help integrate, develop and support the fundraising activities of UNICEF across the National Committees and Country Offices worldwide. Currently, Julie is based in Geneva.


Karen Singer · June 16, 2011 at 16:23

Interesting article. In my business, we also pay attention to the “Wow” factor, but in a different context. My company specializes in custom ceramic tile donor recognition. When a client tells us that they want the donor wall to “wow” people, it is a signal that we can do what we do best.

We make a work of art that functions as a portrait of our client organization – their mission, their history – something that tells their story and that makes people stop and look.

Does anyone else use this term “wow factor”? If so, what does it mean for you?

Kelly Clark · June 17, 2011 at 22:42

That is a great wow moment. My question is how to you create a wow moment with out it feeling contrived? Can a wow moment be planned for?


    Julie · June 20, 2011 at 21:06

    Hi Kelly, I think it is possible and hopefully Part 2 of the blog will give an answer to your question. I think the WOW-moment comes in many different shapes & forms.

Lee Rosenblum · June 19, 2011 at 23:47

I loved the WOW moment story. It helped clarify some things. My agency has numerous opportunities to demonstrate the “value-added” but we do not do it very well. One reason is that the budget has been cut drastically over the past few years. I expect to make some serious changes. Thank you.

    Julie · June 20, 2011 at 21:10

    Hi Lee,
    This is great news! If possible please share some of the changes you are making.

David Cravinho · June 22, 2011 at 11:53

I found Lee’s comment interesting, as it makes a link between the WOW moment and the budget, which can be tricky. As with the KiD example, the WOW factor was triggered by the unexpected lack of a financial ask, replaced instead by concern for the donors’ well being.
In this case, the prompt to ‘let us hear from you’ generated a good donation income but there are many other good examples of WOW moments that only yield results in the longer term by increasing loyalty and in other ways that are much harder to measure.
If we get this right, our donors can become our best ambassadors (and fundraisers), but how can we ever know exactly what the ROI is for our efforts?

Sean Gardner · August 5, 2011 at 23:27

Fantastic post. Can’t wait until part 2. Fundraising is definitely a crucial area. Thanks for adding some perspective.

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