Stewarding The Kids & Relatives of Donors Who Give Estate Gifts

I have been tracking the journey of a donor who is no longer with us, but gave a gift of over $800 million dollars to a non-profit before he passed away.

How can I be tracking the journey of a donor who has passed away?

Because this donor not only gave the organization over $800 million dollars, he left an estate of equal size to his wife, children and grandchildren as well.  And all of this wonderful giving has been managed by the non-profit in a manner that is, well, amazing to behold.  Let me explain.

The Director of Development of this non-profit is one of the most relational ladies I have ever met.  She is often criticized by her managers for “not managing as she should” or “not holding her staff accountable”.  But at the end of the day, the managers have to admit that this good lady always delivers the goods:  satisfied happy donors and revenue.  I love it!

The organization was fortunate to have this DOD on the team when the $800 million dollar donor appeared on the scene.   Fortunate because she set about doing her relational magic in the following ways:

  1. She made the donor feel good about his relationship with the organization by matching his interests and passions to the needs of the non-profit.
  2. She engaged the donor’s family, immediate and extended, in the cause.  This was no easy task and I marvel even today at how she, with integrity and caring, finessed the whole thing.
  3. She worked with her PGO to make sure the legal stuff was in order for a portion of this donor’s estate.
  4. She worked with the family to ensure they were on board with everything that was happening.  Imagine the resentment that could play out if just this area was handled improperly.
  5. She worked with the legal department of her organization, getting them to agree to her relational strategies and approaches that would benefit not only the non-profit but, at the same time, honor the surviving members of the donor’s family.  This was not an easy thing to do.
  6. And then, when the donor passed away and the money transferred, she stayed in touch with and engaged the surviving family.

This last point, engaging the surviving family, is the one point that just amazes me.  Not too many weeks go by these days that I don’t hear from this DOD about her being at a social event or flying off to some other encounter, many of them having NOTHING to do with the non-profit, but having everything to do with building the relationship.

And what I know, as sure as anything I can know, is that this family will do a significant part in giving the organization sizable gifts of their own in the future!  It will happen.  And it will be good for everyone involved.

Now, as I have thought about this topic of stewarding the kids and relatives of the donor who gives a sizable gift to a non-profit, I wonder why this doesn’t happen more often.  And I can come up with three reasons:

  1. The major gift person or DOD does not have a long term vision to make something like this happen.
  2. The management system surrounding an MGO or DOD that would want to do something like this would not support them.
  3. The legal and or finance bureaucrats will get in the way, putting all their worries and anxieties, which are often out of control and not managed, onto the attempt of the MGO or DOD to do this good work, smothering it out of existence.  This is really sad. And management should not allow it.

So, here is the take away from this very interesting and exciting situation.  If you have a situation like this, start thinking long term and taking the steps the DOD took in her situation.  You won’t regret it.  And if those finance or legal people want to get in the way with all their rules and restrictions, go to the manager above them with your manager and “plead the case” by telling them the story I have just shared with you.

Then get on the journey my DOD friend took.  It will be one of the best rides you will ever have taken!



About Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry

Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry have over 55 years of experience fundraising for non-profits. Richard Perry was co-owner of Domain Group until 2005. Jeff Schreifels was a Senior Strategist for Domain Group for 12 years. They came together a few years ago to start Veritus Group, a full-service major gift fundraising agency. Veritus Group has a unique, data-driven approach unlike any agency focused on major gifts. Jeff and Richard are passionate about their work, passionate about life and hopes this blog will provide you with insights and tangible benefits for you and your work. Thank you for reading!
This entry was posted in Donor-Centered, Major Gift Officers, Major Gifts, Philanthopy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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