Stewarding Kids and Relatives of Donors Who Give Estates
I have been tracking the journey of a donor, who is no longer with us, who gave a very sizable gift of more than $800 million to a nonprofit before he passed away.
How can I be tracking the journey of a donor who has passed away?
Because this donor not only gave the organization more than $800 million, he also left an estate of equal size to his kids, wife and grandchildren as well. And all of this wonderful giving has been managed by the nonprofit in a manner that is, well, amazing to behold. Let me explain.
The director of development of this nonprofit is one of the most relational ladies I have ever met. Her managers often criticized her for “not managing as she should” or “not holding her staff accountable,” but, at the end of the day, the managers have to admit that this good lady always delivers the goods: satisfied happy donors and revenue. I love it!
The organization was fortunate to have this director of development on the team when the $800 million donor appeared on the scene. Fortunate because she set about doing her relational magic in the following ways:
- She made the donor feel good about his relationship with the organization by matching his interests and passions to the needs of the nonprofit.
- She engaged the donor’s family, immediate and extended, in the cause. This was no easy task, and I marvel even today on how she, with integrity and caring, finessed the whole thing.
- She worked with her principal gifts officer to make sure the legal stuff was in order for a portion of this donor’s estate.
- She worked with the family to make sure that it was on board with everything that was happening. Imagine the resentment that could play if just this area is not handled properly.
- She worked with the legal department of her organization to get them to agree to her relational strategies and approaches that would not only benefit the nonprofit but would also honor the surviving members of the donor’s family. This was not an easy thing to do.
- And then, when the donor passed and the money transferred, she stayed in touch with and engaged the surviving family.
This last point, engaging the surviving family, is the one point that just amazes me. Not too many weeks go by these days, and I will hear from this director of development about her being at this social event or flying off to some other event or encounter, many of them having nothing to do with the nonprofit, but having everything to do with building the relationship.
And what I know, as sure as anything I can know, is that this family will do a significant part in giving the organization sizable gifts of their own. It will happen. And it will be good for everyone involved.
Now, as I have thought about this topic of stewarding the kids and relatives of the donor who gives a sizable gift to a non-profit, I wonder why this doesn’t happen more often. And I can come up with three reasons it doesn’t:
- The major gift person or director of development does not have a long-term vision to make something like this happen.
- The management system surrounding a major gifts officer or director of development who would want to do something like this would not support them.
- The legal and/or financial bureaucrats will get in the way, putting all their worries and anxieties, which are often out of control and not managed, onto the attempt of the major gifts officer or director of development to do this good work, and smother it out of existence. This is really sad. And management should not allow it.
So, here is the takeaway from this very interesting and exciting situation. If you have a situation like this, start thinking long term and take the steps the director of development took in her situation. You won’t regret it. And if those finance or legal people want to get in the way with all their rules and restrictions, go to the manager above them with your manager and “plead the case” by telling them the story I have just shared with you.
Then get on the journey my director of development friend took. It will be one of the best rides you have ever taken.
If you’re hanging with Richard it won’t be long before you’ll be laughing.
He always finds something funny in everything. But when the conversation is about people, their money and giving, you’ll find a deeply caring counselor who helps donors fulfill their passions and interests. Richard believes that successful major-gift fundraising is not fundamentally about securing revenue for good causes. Instead it is about helping donors express who they are through their giving. The Connections blog will provide practical information on how to do this successfully. Richard has more than 30 years of nonprofit leadership and fundraising experience, and is founding partner of the Veritus Group.