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Whose Story do You Tell? Your Nonprofit's, Or Your Donor's?

Heard in the hallway at a planned giving workshop. Two of the most senior and respected planned giving people in Dallas. Both are starting new campaigns. They are discussing how they might collide over shared donors:

He: "Well, if you just tell you story to donors; some will give, some won't."
She: "Unhunh, isn't that the truth?"

Sadly, the point these professionals miss can be framed with way: "If you learn and complete the client's story, so that giving completes the donor's life mission, more will give and more will give at levels ten times greater than today."

But too often planned giving people are salespeople, pitching a story and a raft of giving opportunities and naming opportunities, rather than becoming expert in their donor's individual needs, wants, goals, hopes and dreams. Without a mind meld with donors on vision and goals for their life and money, giving will in aggregate remain about what it is and institutions will just be competing for a piece of a constant pie.

Let's work together to increase the size of total giving by working to increase just how important and meaningful it is to donors. That has to begin not from the institution's story, but from the donor's. Selling in the wealth market is done with ears not mouth. First listen to and master the donor's life story, then position the gift as a meaningful milestone or destination on that donor's journey. Think of of the gift in the context of all the donor's dollars, days, and dreams. And work with advisors to put all that in play for the benefit of donor, family, and society. Then tell your story as completing the donor's.  When those deals come together, in the presence of all the financial facts and all the life goals, your institution will be at the table, garnering at least your fair share of the dollars slated for social good.

If as a planned giving person you do not have the kind of relationship that allows you to get all the facts and goals, to get access to th financial data, and to hear the client's story, then perhaps you should align your process with that of values-based planners who do this every day. Such planners can be allies and deal makers, rather than door keepers and deal killers, if they are cultivated as allies and partners in a process designed to serve your best donors. Should we work towards that?

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