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Pro Tip | Who's the donor?

publication date: Sep 27, 2021
author/source: Ann Rosenfield

I had a donor who was behind on his pledge payments. I called his administrative support person to make sure all was ok. She said "but he paid his pledge." I noted that our records didn't show a fully paid up pledge - could she give me more detail. She then listed five gifts of $10,000 each that were each from a different organization. There was

  • $10,000 from the donor directly
  • $10,000 from the donor's company
  • $10,000 from the donor's company's foundation
  • $10,000 from the local community foundation where the donor held a donor-advised fund
  • $10,000 from the donor's wife

There was $50,000 from five places but all five were from the donor.

Do your research

Before you approach a donor, it is important to understand the ways that donor may give. The list above is a good start and I would add a private family foundation as either a founder or Director as another place to look. A good prospect research database, prospect researcher, or even a Google search is a great place to start.

The other benefit of doing this research is that you can ensure you are asking for the correct amount. Donors who have access to multiple sources for their philanthropy may be able to make a larger gift.

Check in with your donor

If a donor has agreed to make a gift, I will make sure to say as part of developing the gift agreement "can you let me know where the gift is coming from so that we can be sure to correctly record it when it arrives? For example, will this come from a family fund or other vehicle?" I find donors welcome this level of clarity.

Be sure to thank all the donors

While you may have a single main donor, it is important to be sure to thank all the various partners. In the example in the introduction, it would be smart for you to thank the donor profusely. It would also be wise to thank the other four places - in this case, donor's company, donor's company's foundation, community foundation, and donor's wife. These people are all part of this gift and it is both respectful and makes sense to be sure to thank them as well.

Don't get caught off-guard

It is not surprising that larger donors, who have complex financial lives in business would also have complex philanthropic lives. Make sure that you have a full understanding of your donor so that you can have the best possible relationship to them.

Ann Rosenfield is a working fundraising and the Editor of Hilborn Charity eNews.

Cover photo by Matt Chen on Unsplash

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