Planned Giving: Too Much Information?
It’s perfectly proper to note that a donor enjoys hiking, music, bridge or gardening. These things help you (and your successor) find shared interests and values, without intruding on someone’s privacy.
What to do?
There are situations in which a development officer’s duty is to not record donors’ personal information.
In some cases this includes not even revealing that a donor is a donor. One Ivy League university president was approached by a donor regarding a multi-million dollar bequest. The donor wanted the top management of the institution to know that the bequest was in the foreseeable future and to plan for it accordingly.
The donor’s wish was that the amount of his bequest and his desires regarding the eventual use of the funds be known only to the president, who would have to agree he would not record the information or share it with anyone — including the board of the institution.
The president informed the board of the donor’s conditions and was told to respect his wishes. Only then would the donor inform the president of the size and scope of the bequest.
This example also illustrates why planned-gift development efforts usually are very staff-driven, with less involvement by volunteers than some other methods of fund development. Donors might be friendly with volunteers, but they might not want to share very personal information with them.
Staff members who interact with donors who might share personal information should be trained to be aware that this could occur and to feel comfortable in not recording certain information.
In some cases, a staff member might wish to verbally convey information to her superior to assure institutional memory without making permanent notations.
When working with a donor who shares particularly sensitive personal information about the circumstances surrounding a gift, it might be appropriate in some instances to ask the donor if she would mind if certain information was recorded for future reference, to make sure her intentions are carried out. If the donor prefers that information not be kept, it would be wise to follow her wishes.