The November Giving Carnival hosted by The New Jew poses the question, "What Business Practices should nonprofits adopt to maximize their resources?" One suggestion: If you are a fundraiser or executive director look upon your organization, key donors, and their professional advisors as part of a single loosely organized system or team. Recognize that the donor gives to many organizations, not only yours. Recognize that the donor plays many roles in life, not only donor, but, say, mother, mayor, CEO, Red Sox fan, daughter, and usher in her church. You can present yourself as one who makes a case and makes an ask, or you can position you and your organization as key players on the donor's team, as she thinks through and implements her plans - a prudent plan to take care of her and her loved ones and an inspired plan to positively effect her community, including your organization. Look for opportunities to reposition yourself in the donor's brain, from the box marked "honored obligations," to the box marked "mission partner" or "trusted ally."
How can you emerge as the donor's mission partner?
- Well, you might take a cue from Tracy Gary's Inspired Philanthropy. You can download worksheets at her site, under Resources. And within the Resources tab, under Appendices, you can find materials for use by donors and advisors to help them partner together, perhaps under your auspices, if you convene events with that topic. Tracy has been speaking recently on this topic.
- For other speakers who might advance such a donor-oriented message, you might consider, say, Perry Cochell, Rod Zeeb, Lee Hausner, Doug Freeman, Charles Collier, or Jay Hughes.
- To get a critical mass of donors and to bring in first rate national speakers, consider teaming up with allies from both the forprofit and nonprofit sector. Other nonprofits might invite key quests, and foot some of the bill. Forprofit financial, tax, and legal firms might co-sponsor. A community foundation might host.
More generally, as a nonprofit, ask yourself, "Are we perceived as adding value in our fundraising process, or would our best donors be happier if we never went through that process with them again?" Given that all these key donors work with financial, tax and legal advisors, when and if they make big gifts, particularly legacy gifts, ask what value you can add to the team. For example: by inspiring the donor to go to her team with her philanthropic motivation clearly articulated, and by encouraging her to to create a plan that represents her well as a human being and a citizen, not just as a "wealth holder." As an advisor, I can tell you that nonprofit people are often more convincing as exponents of the public good, and of large-mindedness, or of civic engagement, than are we as advisors. We do need your idealism on the team; just don't over-sell your own organization. Let go of special pleading, if you can. Speak up for philanthropic intent, for what is best for the donor, her family and for society, and let the process take its course. If you are at the table, or near the table, when the plans are created, your organization will likely be included. Such well-planned gifts can be substantial, often a big fraction of net worth, once the donor is fully engaged in the process and her high ideals have been activated.