The Transformation of a Donor Through Encouraged Aspirations

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By F. Duke Haddad

If you have ever been face to face with a prospect or donor in a solicitation scenario, you will quickly realize how many forces are at play during this exchange. The nonprofit pro is using every tool in their toolbox to engage, inform, enrapture, educate, validate, solicit and utilize stewardship at the same time. You are trying to convince someone to invest a percentage of their hard-earned portfolio with your organization and hopefully more where that came from over time.

In many ways you are asking someone to get on the giving elevator and go up several floors, depending on the amount and type of gift or gifts you are seeking. The ask will be easier if you have undergone the correct research and formulation of strategy needed to anticipate the ask sequence. If you have done what you needed to do, you will close the gift. The question for the moment is the ask itself. Are you asking for an annual gift, major gift, planned gift or a combination of gifts? The larger and more complicated the ask, the higher the stakes and chance for failure. Are you experienced enough to transform your donor in a way that encourages higher aspirations?

It is important with developing a donor ask scenario to understand the donor. According to Bloomerang, you need to engage the donor in thoughtful, consistent wooing. You also need to know the difference in outright gifts, when the donor gives you cash, stock or some form of property that the organization can immediately receive, and deferred gifts. Deferred gifts mean the charity gets a gift later in time, specified in a legal instrument or when the donor/beneficiary dies. These gifts usually come from capital assets.

Your research will tell you if the donor has the capacity to make an annual, major or planned gift, or a combination of gifts, based upon an overview of their gift capacity. These donors must establish loyalty, trust and have a value system that believes in your organizational mission. It is easier for the donor to be asked for multiple gift opportunities as a single ask. Make sure the donor cares about the purpose for what you are asking for any type of gift. Proper preparation for this type of ask is especially important.

The Annual Giving Network notes that soliciting a major gift while making annual gifts to an organization is good news. At many organizations, the dual asks for a blended gift, such as a major and annual gift, has been utilized for many years. The strategy for a dual ask is important, as the donor must feel comfortable and informed.

It is especially important that the donor understand that the organizational needs for an annual gift may be different than a major gift, and both gifts play an important role in the long-term success of the organization. Many times, a donor will agree to make a long-term pledge to an endowment fund in an area of importance to them. While waiting for the endowment fund to generate income, a donor may make an annual gift in the amount of the expected endowment annual return, when the endowment fund is fully funded. It is imperative that stewardship and communication play an important role in staying engaged with this type of donor.

A dual gift can also take the form of asking a donor for a major gift and planned gift at the same time. According to Gail Perry, this type of ask involves numerous conversations with the donor. You need to talk to them about their interests, passions and dreams. You also engage donors in gentle and reacting conversations about their vision and philanthropy. This is a process of warming up the donor for the big ask.

It is important that you determine if the donor wants to make a major gift and for what purpose that can involve both a major gift and planned gift. The fact is, you want the donor to aspire to dream in greater ways than ever before. Suggest different ways a donor can make a major gift happen while gently establishing a bequest idea. Then, bring in a planned giving expert to work with you and the donor.

An article by Graham-Pelton reinforces the idea of a blended gift by a donor that can see the impact of a gift before and after their lifetime. Blended gifts, as stated before, are ideally suited for gifts to fund endowments. Development professionals must ask meaningful questions to their donors while listening to donors’ responses and acting accordingly. You must ask a prospect for permission to make a significant ask. This process takes time, and the goal is for a win-win equation where both parties continue to have a deeper relationship for each other and the organization served through this philanthropy.

Amy Eisenstein believes major gift fundraising is about donors achieving philanthropic goals while achieving organizational mission. Blended gifts are a higher-level thought process that is beyond cash. A blended gift includes cash and a variety of asset examples such as stock, charitable gift annuities, bequests, retirement funds, life insurance and real estate.

When a donor expresses hesitation at a certain ask amount, encourage them in the direction of a blended gift, which will increase the value of the gift. Provide prior examples of other donors that have made that type of gift and the lasting impact made by the blended gift. Seek the passion and interest in your donor’s face. Experience will provide you with the confidence, knowledge and ability to close larger annual, major and planned gifts.

The job of any development office is to generate the greatest amount of revenue from as many donors as possible. In every development office, regardless of size, there will be individuals responsible for annual, major and planned gifts. Kristen Jaarda, J.D., notes in an article that, in today’s world of fundraising, major gift officers are asking donors about planned gifts and planned gift officers are seeking major gifts.

At a recent meeting of the National Capital Planned Giving Council (NCPGC), several ideas and themes became food for thought. Themes moving forward for major gift officers and planned gift officers in the same development office include work as a team, act as partners, share credit, set mutual goals, seek mentors, encourage trust and work together to transform donors through encouraged aspirations.

The bottom line is do not be satisfied with just an annual gift, major gift or planned gift. Strive to seek multiple gifts from various assets of one donor. The compounding effect of the gift will provide enhanced financial results and a deeper and more meaningful relationship with your donors.

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