Respect Small Donors

Wrapped Pennies by Ben Popken on Flickr
I emphasize it as a prime takeaway in every workshop, webinar and keynote I do: the best Planned Giving prospects are those over 55 who have a long, consistent giving history, and when you screen for consistency, ignore the size of the gifts.

Donors who give you only $5 a year–and have been doing it for many years–are outstanding prospects for a planned gift. You need to thank your small donors.

They may be testing you, to see whether you appreciate small donors, as they anticipate a larger gift. Or, they may be giving all they can (or all they feel they can) during life. Because they love your work so much, there may be a gift in their estate.

The savvy Planned Giving officer at New Jersey Institute of Technology knew this well. Monique Pryor wisely nurtured a relationship with Helen and John Hartmann, who had given NJIT around $25 a year for thirty years. Last week the college announced a $5 million gift from Mrs. Hartmann’s will, the largest in the school’s history.

You don’t thank small donors because they might some day be large donors. You thank them because it’s the right way to treat your donors.

Your small donors deserve your respect.

(My thanks to Maria Semple, The Prospect Finder, and a regular contributor to my radio show, for sending me this story.)

6 thoughts on “Respect Small Donors

  1. Agree! Thanking is the most important thing we do. It let’s the donor know they made a good decision, and sets the stage for building long, lasting relationships. And wouldn’t it be rude if we only sent thank you’s for expensive birthday presents? Gratitude is owed to all. I once had a $10 donor who left a $4.2 million bequest. One never knows.

  2. Over the years, I have heard many stories of people no one would suspect of giving major gifts after passing on. All donors should be thanked and respected, regardless of the size of their gift. Take more time to get to know your donors, large and small, and find out what their motivations are. It can’t hurt, and it sure can help your development program.

  3. Karl J. Ohrman, CLU • I have been asked to make a presentation to a day long fundraising conference this April. I will cover mostly large planned gifts. I will make a key point that major donors just don’t show up one day with large gifts in hand. They always start with small gifts even during their macaroni years. Gifts will grow as they become more financially stable.
    If you approach a rich person who has no giving history, make sure that he or she buys lunch because that’s all you’re going to get no matter how attractive your cause or professional your ask.
    The point is that small gifts from small donors are important. Nurture them and they will grow with you.

  4. I totally agree, Tony! Oftentimes, we honor folks according to the amount that they have given us instead of treating any act of charity as that of love. Re-tweeting this all around 🙂

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