Many nonprofits live and die by this motto: Every donation counts. It doesn't matter if it's pocket change or a big fat check.
So imagine the reaction of employees of five Colorado Springs organizations - Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, Cheyenne Village, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Rocky Mountain Field Institute and Silver Key Senior Services - when they got the latter from a donor who asked to remain anonymous. Also inside the package were $50 gift cards for every employee.
In all, the donations totaled nearly a quarter of a million dollars.
For all of the organizations, this was a wonderful holiday surprise.
This wasn't the only random act of kindness reported this week. Someone placed a one-ounce gold 1975 South Africa Krugerrand coin - valued at at least $1,100 - into a Colorado Springs Salvation Army red kettle Thursday night in front of a Colorado Springs Sears store. The donation is enough to provide 550 meals or 84 nights of shelter, according to Jeane Turner, a spokeswoman for the El Paso County Salvation Army.
"It's amazing how generous people are," she said. "It's very much like our community that people are so generous, and we're very grateful for it."
In each case, no one expected the generosity.
The five nonprofits all received their gifts via a FedEx package Thursday. All but one received a $50,000 check. Still, employees of Rocky Mountain Field Institute - an organization that conserves and protects public wildlands in southern Colorado - were delighted and humbled after receiving $10,000.
"It was the best thing ever," said Jennifer Peterson, the organization's executive director. "This happens in the movies, and it happened to us in real life."
Each package included a personalized letter expressing gratitude toward the organization's work. There was also contact information through a third party asking the recipient to let the donor know how the money will be used. The note to Cheyenne Village, which serves adults with disabilities, read: "Why all the mystery? Because I'm not looking for notoriety or attention - I'm just looking for a way to say happy holidays and thank you for a job well done!"
The sender signed off as Your Mystery Friend.
"It really felt like we had an angel when we opened the box, and sharing the news with the staff was an exciting, monumental moment," said Erin Hannan, the Fine Arts Center director of advancement. "It's not every day that you receive a completely anonymous gift of that magnitude, from a 'mystery friend' and it makes a profound impact on an organization like ours. It can make a measurable difference in our ability to deliver critical programming to the community."
For Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, the money will help cover food storage, transportation and distribution to 31 counties and about 170,000 people in need of food. Every dollar equates to eight meals, according to chief development officer Stacy Poore.
"We feel that no one should go hungry and it's important to have partners like this who believe that no one should go hungry," she added.
Many of the organizations showed their gratitude by posting about the donation on their Facebook pages. Though a representative from each organization expressed the desire to give thanks to the donor in person, they respected the donor's decision to stay anonymous.
Jeannie Porter, the development director of Cheyenne Village, said someone called the organization around Thanksgiving and asked about the number of the employees. She believes that's how the donor knew to include 110 gift cards in the package.
Silver Key Senior Services received 46 gift cards, while the Fine Arts Center and Rocky Mountain Field Institute got 48 and 10, respectively. Care and Share Food Bank received gift cards for at least 40 employees.
"What made the gift so touching was that the donor remembered each of our employees," Porter said. "It was a personal touch that was as touching as the larger gift, if not more."
The other organizations shared the same sentiment.
"It's important for people to understand any gift to us is appreciated," said Lorri Orwig, chief development officer at Silver Key. "Whether it is a $4 or $5 to $50,000 donation, we value all of our donors because they care about what we do and they want to support."