Wendy had an interesting question following a presentation last week that we felt was noteworthy. A participant inquired how best to handle a donor who offers to make a restricted gift that could be put to better use if directed toward a different area. This nonprofit leader described a situation in which a donor wanted to give $50,000 restricted specifically to endowment. This was a very significant gift for this organization but at the time their primary need was debt reduction, which meant that restricting a gift of this size was not going to help them meet their immediate challenges.
While the organization didn’t want to appear ungrateful for the gift, they decided to sit down with the donor and discuss what $50,000 toward debt reduction could mean in terms of savings on future interest. In addition, they demonstrated how this large savings would compare to the small amount of money that would be generated annually from a $50,000 endowment.
We affirmed the nonprofit’s plan of action. Sitting down with a donor to explain the immediate needs of your organization may be the necessary step to not only educate them, but open up their thinking to other options for their gift. Many donors aren’t close enough to an organization to know what its pressing needs are; they simply know they want to help. Just as in the situation above, some donors may think that a gift of $50,000 for endowment is a priority when in fact it wouldn’t actually contribute a large enough amount to make an impact on an organization’s budget.
In the end, a simple face-to-face conversation with your donors to help them better understand your most pressing needs may be worth the hour of time invested. After all, as a development professional it’s your charge to serve as a wise steward for your nonprofit and to help donors invest wisely in your organization.