publication date: Jun 17, 2011
author/source: Lisa MacDonald
I was on time for the Donor Crystal Ball
presentation at April's Canadian Association of
Toronto, I still had to squeeze into a back row to find a seat. The speakers,
introduced only as "Dick and Pam," had been invited to share their views on
philanthropy and relate their experience in finding a partner for their planned
director of personal and planned giving at Carleton University
, the ultimate
recipient of Dick and Pam's bequest, was also on hand to facilitate the
discussion and help the group glean insight into donor needs and behaviour.
Donors with a
and Pam were personable, educated and intelligent individuals with a plan behind
their giving agenda. With no children and being at the end of their careers,
they wanted to pay back their good fortune through estate planning - and
satisfy the impulse to leave something behind.
the couple targeted four U.S. and Canadian universities as potential recipients
for their financial gift. A passion for the arts and humanities guided their
charitable choices, as did an interest in creating a student scholarship
program. Other issues, such as geographic location or having a previous
relationship with the organization were not important.
Lesson #1 -
listen, listen, listen
contacting and meeting with representatives from all four universities, the
would-be philanthropists were very
discouraged. As Pam put it, "not all
schools were rude - some were just hard of hearing!" - like with the university
that wanted them to fund a modern dance gymnasium.
there was the American university that never followed up with their questions
regarding tax implications for a Canadian donor. A third school wanted to take
control of Dick and Pam's assets before
were dead. Lack of follow-up, lack of
understanding, and lack of listening cost these institutions the goodwill of
Dick and Pam, prospective donors no more.
Lesson #2 - build
Dick and Pam did not give up on their philanthropic goals. Pam's online research led the couple to
Carleton's Humanities program and subsequently a meeting with Rowena. "Our
meeting was for 8:55 in the morning and when we got there, Rowena mentioned
that the Dean would be stopping by. We
fully expected to get five minutes of the Dean's time before he proceeded to a
9:00 am obligation," said Dick with a smile.
only did the Dean show up, he spent the entire morning with them. This told
Dick and Pam that Carleton was willing to invest the time to learn more about
them and begin the long process of building a relationship.
wasn't just about flattering them either, clarified Pam. "It was that we got to
meet with decision-makers who speak for the school and its future direction." And
Dick and Pam had the chance to raise another important matter - the possibility
of contributing their library of 5,000 books.
and Pam were further impressed when Rowena invited two humanities students to
join them for lunch. "We went home and
said maybe we should consider adoption!" laughed Pam. The initial meeting was
so positive that Dick and Pam decided to create their endowment at Carleton
Lesson #3 -
advice to potential donors
seasoned pros in the business of endowments, Dick and Pam had a few words of
advice for anyone contemplating planned giving. First, do your own research so
you can clearly articulate what you want to accomplish. Second, know your aims and advocate for them.
Finally, be aware of the practical issues. For example, if your bequest was
made public, what would the implications be?
and Pam pointed out that establishing an acceptable, personalized schedule for
ongoing contact is critical to communication, and necessary to build and
maintain a successful donor relationship. While some donors might want much
more, they are happy to receive an annual update on Carleton's finances and
news from the school a few times a year. At the very least though, concedes
Dick - "a Christmas card would be nice."
MacDonald is Assistant
Editor of Hilborn's flagship
newsletter, Canadian Fundraising &
Philanthropy. A degree in journalism and communications from Carleton University and more than 12
years of experience as a nonprofit communications professional informs her
passion for and understanding of issues in this sector. Lisa welcomes your
ideas and comments about this article. Contact Lisa