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Annual Gifts Before Major Financial Commitments

Q: Donors always make annual gifts before they make a major financial commitment to a nonprofit, correct?

A: No. It used to be that donors were more likely to make annual gifts for a few years before they’d consider a major commitment. But these days, it is less common to see the traditional pipeline for a major gift start with annual gifts. There are a number of factors contributing to the shift: uncertainty in the economy, more frequent career changes, an aging population, and a pool of prospective donors who are raising their children at the same time they’re caring for their own parents. Your best course of action is to build a meaningful relationship with your prospects and treat them as individuals with unique interests and abilities to support your organization. When the prospect is ready to consider a commitment, you can partner with the prospect and his/her advisors to craft a gift plan that meets the donor’s personal planning objectives while also supporting your mission. Gift options such as bequests, bank or investment accounts, real estate or personal property, stock, and gift annuities will fling open the doors to more possibilities for supporting your organization. So find out what their needs and priorities are. Then, help them identify the ways they can give now and in the future. You might be surprised. Their first gift may be a major gift!

Q: (Viken asks…) But Brian, we always promote the idea that loyal prospects are your best planned giving prospects. Doesn’t your response negate that?

A: Not at all. It makes perfect sense to market planned gifts to your loyal, consistent donors, as that’s where you’ll find your most likely prospects. But when you’re working with a donor one-on-one, you must treat that person as an individual and try to understand his or her needs. If you make assumptions about your donors based on their annual giving record (or lack thereof), you risk missing out on major gifts.

Besides writing this column and consulting for PlannedGiving.com, Brian Sagrestano is President and CEO of Gift Planning Development, LLC, and a principal in Constellation Advancement, LLC. He co-authored The Philanthropic Planning Companion, which has everything a gift planning officer needs to know. Here you’ve got a direct pipeline to the author. Ask Brian your questions at PlannedGiving.com/Brian.

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