Quick Tips — Bequest Asks

While attending this year’s Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference in Baltimore, I sat in on an interesting session by Stephen Pidgeon about getting bequest asks right.

Since I enjoyed the session so much, I want to share a few quick tips that I learned from Stephen:

  • When asking donors and prospects to consider making a bequest to your organization, acknowledge the importance of family and friends, as this demonstrates your respect for the donors’ relationships outside of your organization and can lead you into an easy ask for a residuary bequest (leaving whatever is left after they have taken care of loved ones to your organization).
  • Providing social information about recently made (or confirmed) bequest intentions in your ask can triple the number of people who consider and make their own bequest.
  • Organizations should be asking donors and prospects to consider bequests in all modes of communication other than the telephone (e.g. personal letter, supporter newsletter, inserts/ads, events, website, etc.).
  • Asks should be made by: a beneficiary of the organization’s work, a senior trustee who has made a bequest of his/her own, or another supporter who has made his/her own bequest.

I hope that you find these points interesting and that they will influence how your organization is pursuing its legacy giving goals, as I will be integrating these into my efforts for our next fiscal year.

For more from Stephen, check out his book Love Your Donors to Death.

Have any thoughts or specific responses to these ideas? Share them in the comments.


Quick Tip: Uncovering Wealth Among Your Prospects & Donors

In the last six months, I have been spending anything from a few minutes to an hour or so each week looking up lost I-House alumni in the hopes of being able to reconnect with them. During this year’s Association of Donor Relations Professionals NYC Regional Conference, one of the presenters mentioned that one of the wealthiest counties in her state was not too far from the metropolitan area in which her organization worked. After the conference, I looked up that county and started checking for any alumni who lived there just to be sure that we were not overlooking any particularly well-off constituents. With this in mind, I encourage you to check the wealthiest counties in the United States each year and confirm whether any of your prospects and/or donors reside in any of them; any of those who you identify can be marked for additional research. Here’s to uncovering some wealth in your own database!

Quick Tip: Telling Your Nonprofit’s Story in the 990 Report


Last week, Association of Fundraising Professionals International CEO Andrew Watt participated in the New York City Chapter’s Annual Membership Meeting and had a lot of great things to say.  One of the smart and particularly easy ideas that he suggested was to ensure that the organizational description in your annual 990 report really tells your story, as many individual, corporate and foundation prospects & donors access these documents to learn a bit more about your group.

Commonly, since the organization’s Finance Office compiles the 990 report, the Development staff is not included in drafting the narrative text.  Even though my colleagues and I do assist our Finance Office with the 990 preparation, I am giving this section a special look in our most recent report and will have some edits to suggest going forward.

Do you and/or your colleagues collaborate with your Finance Office on the preparation of your organization’s 990?  Have you reviewed the organizational narrative?


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Quick Tip: A New Approach to Board Fundraising Expectations

While attending a session on Working with Your Board at last month’s Fundraising Day in New York, one of the speakers shared how her organization frames the fundraising expectations of its board: give, get or connect.

While most fundraisers are used to the give-or-get concept, but I found it interesting that value was placed on making meaningful connections.  I think that it is particularly important to acknowledge those connections that are made, whether in supporting program operations or identifying new donors, especially those made by board members who may not have as much money to give directly as some others.

How do you measure your board’s fundraising effectiveness?  Does your organization have a give or get policy?  If so, what is it?  And if not, why?

Quick Tip: Bank of America Grants Search


While attending last month’s Fundraising Day in New York, I sat in on a session focused on understanding family foundations.  During the conversation, one of the panelists reminded me of a very useful resource that some fundraisers may not be aware of: the Bank of America Philanthropic Solutions Grant Search.  On this site, you can do some quick prospecting among a group of foundations for which the Bank serves as a trustee or co-trustee.

This is another resource that I wanted to be sure to share with you, dear readers.  Please let me know if you come across any good prospects and especially if you end up building new relationships with potential funders (or get a grant!).


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Quick Tips: Fundraising with Your CEO

In last week’s post, I shared some great points that I gleaned from Fund Raising Day in New York’s “Leading the Leaders: How to Motivate Your Board to Cultivate Major Gifts” session.  Today, I want to cover some quick tips that the panelists put forth on how to work with your organization’s CEO (or Executive Director) on fundraising:

When the CEO doesn’t “get” fundraising . . .

Gregory Boroff of amfar — The Foundation for AIDS Research encouraged working progressively with your CEO when he/she does not get fundraising.  For example, you could start him/her off with thank you phone calls and slowly move into deeper donor relations and engagement efforts like donor visits, active cultivation & stewardship, accompanying solicitors on face-to-face asks and finally making the face-to-face asks.

Managing expectations

Kerry Kruckel Gibbs of WNET-Thirteen stated that she is very clear with her CEO at the beginning of each year about what she expects and needs him to do in regard to fundraising, with details about the number of asks, visits, etc.  When facing resistance to meeting these expectations, she is clear about the role that charitable gifts play in the organization’s budget and why the CEO is an important part of reaching the overall fundraising goals.


In those situations where she is preparing the CEO for an ask, Ms. Gibbs will always be sure to rehearse the aforementioned ask with him/her.  Not only does this get the solicitor comfortable with the major points that should be covered and what to expect from the donor, it should provide the fundraiser with sufficient comfort that the solicitor is fully prepared.  Now, Ms. Gibbs did note that there have been some occasions where her CEO went off-script during an ask and that it was not always a bad thing, so do keep in mind that possibility.

I hope that you have found these quick tips helpful.  What other tips would you share for successfully and effectively reaching your fundraising goals through the direct efforts of your CEO?