If You Do One Thing Right… Go Easy on the Technical Terms in Philanthropic Discussions

Posted by National Association of Charitable Gift Planners on Nov 11, 2015 3:19:20 PM

If you do one thing right...

Go easy on the technical terms, particularly early on. They have the potential to confuse philanthropic discussions. Rather than focusing on the names and granular detail of the instruments and gift types that may be most applicable to the situation, look first to the donor’s overarching motivations, desires and goals.


Take the time to unpack what the donor is telling you. What catalyzing events or moments have led them to want to make a difference? What is the scale of their vision? Is it reasonable, plausible or purely aspirational?

Wearing your organizational hat, begin to probe. Try to understand the connection with your organization and why the donor is inspired by it. Try to assess how their ideals and passion can be translated into advancing your mission. This is not to suggest that the match between donor ambition and mission will always be perfect. Some reality testing should be expected certainly in the beginning. The effort is worth it though. Once you have worked through those issues and found areas of common agreement and consensus the ability to move to a successful philanthropic result is enhanced.

Throughout those conversations, you may have gained insight into how your donor sees family fitting into the charitable vision. Are they to be part of the gift or need to be included in some fashion in the ultimate plan? Strategies satisfying both charitable and non-charitable goals may now make the plan all the more compelling. That in turn provides even more information to help shape the nuts and bolts of what needs to be included in the final analysis.

By this point technical terms will have become part of the conversation but not dominate it. Rather than becoming the end in itself, those terms highlight the means to the desired end, the road map to follow for the donor, your organization and the philanthropic result.

Grant Whitney
Senior Associate Director of Gift Planning
Harvard University

Donors to Act NCPP CTA


Topics: philanthropy, donors, fundraising, planned giving, Leadership