I enjoy asking for gifts. I like to connect a donor with a mission and see magic happen. Indeed, when you ask one for a gift, the giver gives.
When I have broached this topic as of late, I see faces cringe and heads nod, “no.” The body language says it all. But, what is the aversion? It has to do with how we value money and the beliefs and, ultimately, the power that money has over us. Some feel awkward. Some even feel a little embarrassed about it. Some ask “who will give us money?” and others ask “how will we ask them?”
We need to look carefully at ourselves. What is our relationship to money? We will never be able to move forward to ask for money if we do not know how we relate to it ourselves.
How important is money in our lives? What is your past around money? How do we spend the money we have? Where are we giving our money? How does having money affect our self-esteem and self-worth?
Money is about security and that is surely about a very vulnerable place in our lives.
Until you examine your beliefs and thoughts are around money, you will be adverse to ask others.
We must realize, that we are helping others by our asking. We are enabling them to do great work for our clients, our community, and our world.
But, this must begin with you. Take time to reflect on truly what money means to you. And, that will prepare you to embrace asking others, and allowing for changed and transformed lives.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that the number of people dying in the United States will double in the next forty years. WOW!
Hard to read, but surely reality. And, sometimes reality is stark.
The Baby Boomers will soon be facing retirement, old age, and eventually death. And, Baby Boomers will have more wealth to leave behind – significantly more than previous generations.
Researchers have been hard at work calculating the details behind this transfer of wealth. Their findings? They estimate that approximately $41 trillion will transfer between 1998 and 2052 from a predicted eighty-eight million estates. Of that $41 trillion, it is estimated that $6 trillion will transfer to charity.
However, as large as these statistics are, only around 18% of the nation’s wealthiest individuals presently leave a gift to charity in their will. While data is insufficient, it is estimated that a small percentage leave a gift in their will.
So, are nonprofits so focused on their annual operating support that they are failing to include planned giving as part of their fundraising strategy? Are we just not asking enough? I would garner to say this is very accurate. Most of the organizations that I work with are so focused on meeting the day-to-day operational needs of the organization that they cannot even think beyond into the future. Or if they can think about the future, they just don’t want to talk about death. Or they fear that they will take away from their annual support. Or they are just impatient, and can’t wait for planned gifts to mature because the income won’t be forthcoming for many years. Or perhaps they have such high expectations within their departments to produce that their focus is more on immediate returns and not for the long haul.
We keep talking about this enormous transfer of wealth, but what are we doing as fundraisers to begin the conversations. Conversations in our organizations that confront current expectations by our superiors to raise money for today. Or how we as fundraisers don’t want to grapple with sensitive topics as death with our donors. Or because we as organizations need the money today to keep the doors open for tomorrow. Or maybe because we don’t have enough knowledge about planned giving and what it is, so we just don’t want to bring up the subject.
All organizations both large and small absolutely must begin thinking about legacy giving.
I know one thing for certain, these statistics point to us as fundraisers to do a better job. And, so the question is, what are you doing to do that better job?
For many donors who hold great wealth, they sometimes want to do more than just give. In fact, they want to shape directly rather than just support a charitable cause. This term is often called, “hyperagency.”
In most cases, that is fine. In fact, it is very welcomed. Paul Shervish, Director of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College, noted that hyperagency is “a distinctive characteristic of major giving because such donors are capable of establishing the institutional framework in which they and others live.” They want to produce rather than support.
Not often, but in some cases, the donor upon giving an enormous gift expects the organization to do what he or she wishes, changing the whole agenda of the organization. They want to determine what happens and when programmatically.
To me, this can become dangerous territory. For you see, just because someone has extensive wealth and wants to give it us, does not mean that we have to entertain “mission creep.” Our organizations have been founded to serve a community through a particular mission. It is the obligation of the organization and its Board of Directors to ensure the organization’s programs, and mission continues to be relevant to the community that it serves.
We often see “mission drift” in cases where organizations “chase” foundation funding just because it is available and whether or not it meets the orgazation’s mission. As a result, programs develop that are not mission consistent, and the organization begins to take on areas that they do not have a specialty.
A case in point, in 1907, a $3 million bequest left to Swarthmore College met this description: It was made conditional on the school ceasing all participation in intercollegiate sports. (Though tempted by the much-needed funds, Swarthmore turned the gift down.)
So, are you tempted to keep the gift or would you turn it down?
Well, if the gift is going to subject your organization to terms it couldn’t possibly meet or that are not consistent with the core mission, then yes, I say it needs to be turned down. Turning down a gift is a rather difficult decision. But, you must realize that you are bound to the donors’ wishes once you accept it. If you can’t abide by the terms whether impractical, unethical, or for other reasons, then you just need to say “no!”
The dilemma mentioned above points to the importance of having a Gift Acceptance Policy in place. Yes, I know these policies are so mundane, and I know you don’t have the time to create them, but, when you start seeking major gifts, you just may come across a situation like this. Even the smallest organizations have found themselves with donors wishing to make contributions that have binding strings attached. And, when you are small, it becomes especially difficult to say no to a massive infusion of cash.
This situation is more of an ethical and moral question. But surely, the ethics involved in fundraising must be a topic that your organization discusses at a strategic level (meaning Board), and Gift Acceptance Policies provide a basis for that discussion.
So, you don’t always have to say “yes” to a donor who loves you too much. In fact, sometimes, it is best to say no, if it means you won’t hold true to your core mission and the community that you are bound to serve.