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Donor Upgrades Gift. Now What Do You Do?
(Scroll down to read the solution.)
Jenna Smith is a major gift officer who has an established relationship with a long-time donor to her organization named Roger Sherman. Roger has made gifts in the range of $1,000 each year for the past 10 years--some made via check, others via credit card.
At her recent meeting with Roger, Jenna asked him to consider joining other key supporters and to increase his giving to $10,000.
Jenna comes to meet with Roger in his office, and after normal pleasantries, Roger takes a check from his desk drawer and slides it across the desk to Jenna. She glances at it and her heart falls--it's made out for $1,000. AGAIN. But then she gets a closer look and sees the extra zero. A Cheshire Cat smile spreads across her face.
$10,000 is a large gift for Jenna's organization, and she is quite excited to receive such a generous contribution.
Which of the following are appropriate ways for Jenna to respond to this gift?
- Thank him sincerely for the generous gift supporting the mission of her organization.
- Invite Roger to complete a gift agreement that they will both sign, describing, in necessary detail, how the gift will be used and what stewardship will be provided.
- Slide the check back to Roger and ask if he's considered giving an appreciated asset.
- Ask what's changed in his relationship with the organization that allowed him to increase his giving by tenfold.
- Ask if he's planning to sell any appreciated assets this year.
- Ask if he'd be willing to set the date for their next meeting.
All of the above. Let's take a closer look at the thinking behind each of these strategies.
1. Thank him sincerely for the generous gift supporting the mission of her organization.
The most obvious thing to do is also the most important.
2. Invite Roger to complete a gift agreement that they will both sign, describing, in necessary detail, how the gift will be used and what stewardship will be provided.
We strongly recommend completing a gift agreement for any gift that reaches your level of a major gift. Here's why:
- As donors are rightly expecting more and more accountability so as to assure their gifts make a difference, it makes good sense to put expectations and commitments in writing.
- Avoid misunderstandings by eliminating the chance for them up-front.
- A gift agreement indicates to Roger that his gift is seriously important to Jenna's organization. (In other words, it's part of displaying gratitude.)
- Gift agreements are a great tool for learning more about your donors: How they think, their values, their trust level in you and your organization.
- Taking a professional approach gives your organization cred; which makes it the best approach to take.
3. Slide the check back to Roger and ask if he's considered giving an appreciated asset.
Never assume your donor is experienced in the tax benefits of philanthropy.
By opening this avenue of conversation, Jenna will learn more about Roger and the way he thinks. His answer may subsequently open a whole line of questioning and discussion that will help her better understand Roger and his situation. In addition, this question will demonstrate to Roger that a) she has his best interests in mind, and b) she knows what she's doing and knows how to add value to the exchange. More on this below.
4. Ask Roger what's changed in his relationship with the organization that has allowed him to increase his giving by 10 fold.
This is such a fun question to have the privilege to ask. Here's why:
- It very well may lead to Jenna finding out more details about Roger’s financial situation.
- She will learn new things about Roger’s attitude toward her organization.
- Roger may share details about a particular area of interest within the organization.
- The conversation may yield clues as to next steps Jenna should take in developing the relationship between Roger and her organization.
- It's an intelligent question to ask, and intelligent questions lend MGOs credibility with their donors.
5. Ask Roger if he's planning to sell any appreciated assets this year.
This is one of our favorite questions to ask prospects. Closely related to #3 above, we ask this question often, even in early qualifying visits.
When you ask a donor about selling appreciated assets, you're doing the donor a favor, for it would be a shame if they did sell something and didn’t have the opportunity to consider their tax-advantaged options to combine that sale with philanthropy.
A positive response from the donor opens the door for you to promote your organization and its ability to be a planning resource. It may also lead to you getting another appointment, perhaps with a senior colleague.
Again: Intelligent questions add to your credibility, and as gift officer or representative for your organization, your credibility is your lifeblood.