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Know What You Don’t Know

As a gift planning consultant, I am asked a wide range of questions—everything from how to build an effective gift planning effort to the most esoteric points of tax law. Just this week I was asked about the deductibility of a gift of an education easement on a parcel of real estate. I had some ideas about how to answer. Rules about gifts of conservation easements and partial interests came to mind. But I had never been asked about an education easement before, and I am certainly not an expert in that area.

The key to being successful in gift planning is to know when you are out of your knowledge area. Or to put it another way: know what you don’t know. 

I did some research, then called three experts in gifts of real estate—Brian Clontz, Dennis Bidwell and Chase Magnuson. I asked for their opinions and then reported back what I had learned to the client. I strongly suggested that the client and the prospect confer with tax counsel to obtain an independent opinion.

No matter your level of expertise, there are always questions that will go beyond your current skill set. Use the many resources available to look up the answer, then check with other experts to be sure you found the correct solution. You’ll remember what you learned, and your prospective donor will learn to rely on you not only for your expertise, but your ability to help them find answers.

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