Focus On: Planned Giving: Helping Donors to Look Ahead
Having worked with three nonprofits over the past 17 years has taught me the importance of identifying and nurturing one of the most significant resources of any organization — its older donors. Cultivating these donors enriches their lives and allows them to have a positive impact on their favorite charities beyond their cash-generating years.
Properly approaching older donors is contingent on a respect for them and their needs, as well as an appreciation that those needs, and their ability to help an organization, will change as they grow older. In order for an organization to realize the long-term value of its older donors, its staff must be willing to promote a carefully cultivated relationship, which occurs over donors’ entire involvement with the nonprofit — not just during the period when they can generate immediate cash gifts.
I’ve been very fortunate at the three organizations I’ve worked with — World Neighbors, Food for the Hungry and MAP International, all of which have a large number of donors 65 years or older and whose founders were still alive during my time of employment. This allowed me to identify the donors who had good relationships with the founders and those who might have been ignored over the years because they hadn’t provided any “major” gifts.
One such couple, John and Amy, had been recruited by one of the founders more than 40 years ago because they had a business background and the nonprofit needed someone to market its programs on the West Coast, which the couple did for a number of years. Next, the founder asked them to go to Europe and set up a program there.
When they were ready to retire, John and Amy moved to Arizona, which is where I met them. I spent time asking about their history with the founders, which values of the organization they appreciated the most, and which of their accomplishments in working with the agency they were most proud of. Since they had a long history with the nonprofit, I asked for their help meeting some of the donors they knew and with whom they could help open a door for me. Later, I brought in some of our key staff, including our chief executive officer, to meet with them and thank them for their commitment.