(trying to make the best of it)
…meaning that we cannot allow individual gifts to be donated to a specific program or…
Yes, I know what “unrestricted” means. (pause) Well, I’ve come all this way and, of course, I want to honor Lydia’s memory – for Rose as well as myself. So, of course I’ll make an unrestricted gift – if it helps the Center. (He hands the check to Janet which he has been writing during this conversation, filling in the gift amount last. It is for $50.)
(glancing briefly at the check)
Thank you so much, Mr. Brown, both for your gift and for the trouble you’ve taken to get here. Look, if you can spare a few more minutes, perhaps I can find one of our program staff who would have known Lydia personally. I am sure she would love to meet you.
Actually, I should be on my way. It’s a bit of a trip home, but thank you for your time.
Let me see you to the door.
(Arthur is already independently mobile; Janet walks along beside him to the exit.)
(Scene shifts to the Executive Director’s office. Janet has paused in his doorway.)
Bob, you got a minute?
(looking up) Sure, Janet, what is it?
A gentleman that I’ve never met before just came to see me. But I had an opportunity to do a little research on him before our appointment. He’s a major donor to both Memorial Hospital and City Opera Company, and he used to own Brown & Benjamin before he sold it and retired.
the Advertising Agency?
He wanted to make an in memoriam gift to honor a family friend. She was a member here and she died last week.
So, did you get it?
Well done. How much?
Fifty dollars…but I think we could have got a lot more.
So, where did you go wrong?
Gee…Can I relate! Being in Development is sometimes like being shipwrecked on an island…and no matter how many SOS signals I send…that Donors want to give…but they also want a say on where it goes…no one on my board seems to see the signs…in this economy especially…if we can’t be flexible…and be reflective and responsive to the interests of the donor…we’re sunk!
I also can relate. We are in a Capital Campaign right now for a renovation and expandsion on two historic buildings on the Main Street of our town to create a wonderful interactive History Museum. When people give more than the existing membership they often think they are helping fund the new Museum when they are donating to the Operations Budget. Then they are surprised when they aren’t listed as Capital Campaign Donors. It is a tough problem and hard to educate the donor to specify where they would like the funds to go without offending them.
The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park Development Troupe has just completed the first reading of the script. Look for our names at the Tony Award nominations in the spring. 🙂
Thanks for this enlightening exercise
wow – thats inciteful! putting this out there as a skit would be VERY powerful!
Every non-profit needs a menu a giving opportunities. The Development officer needs a strong relationship with the business manager and the org’s finance committee so they can be somewhat flexible when learning about a donor’s preferences. I can’t imagine that the development officer did not pick up the phone and identify a staff person who knew this man’s friend and her preferences. Even when all gifts are unrestricted, a portion of the budget probably funds that activity or program. She missed a golden opportunity to cultivate a long term donor. How disappointing for this gentleman.
Ok, so what next? How can we convince our directors, boards and CFOs that unrestricted is absolutely necessary? I’m in this same position myself and everyone is pushing back, how do I get it through to them that restructuring the giving (and more work for accounting which is really the issue) is worth it?
Almost all donors want to restrict their giving. At my institution, we have very few unrestricted gifts. In fact, I would say 97 – 99% of our gifts are restricted. It is an important way for donors to pay tribute to loved ones and others who were important in their lives. Those organizations who only accept unrestricted gifts are hurting themselves and may not survice this current economic crisis.
As a program director I had a member of a supportive family approach me about funding a specific project. I passed this long, but here was resistence to the idea from the CEO. He feared she would shift her giving to specific projects rather than the generous general support gift she made each year. In the end, she gave her gift to the specific project and then doubled the size of her annual general support gift in gratitude for what we’d done with her directed gift. It’s a lesson I’ve carried with me now that I am in development.
What I love best about my current position is that restricted giving is celebrated and encouraged. It gives joy to donors and college personnel alike. Luckily, 35% of our operating budget is paid by the college. The trick is how to cover the other 65% when investment income is bottoming and unrestricted gifts are rare. I can think of two possible solutions: take a 15% fee off the top of all restricted gifts to pay for foundation operations, or figure out how to express the impact of an unrestricted gift so it’s appealing to donors.
This is also a good reminder that we development folks need to get out of our offices not just to meet donors, but to see the people who use the facilities/programs/opportunities we are raising money for (myself included here). These are the stories donors want to hear about and are connected to – the people.
I am just a donor, but I would not object if told xx% of my restricted gift would go to basic support for the agency as long as xx% did not exceed a reasonable amount, say 10% with 5% being more reasonable. It is just like sales tax. I don’t recall refusing to buy an item because of the tax on it.
I really like the idea of the percentage for basic support. Donors can understand that without a solid foundation the programs may not have the roots they need to grow in a healthy way. What I’m finding is that large donors like to support the new project, the new building, the new event…and in these times we need general support just to carry on and keep our fees affordable.
It appears that the board of this organization has given the CFO control of the organization. You can’t blame the CFO for wanting to keep his/her job as simple as possible, which is exactly what this policy does.
Restricted gifts are just the first donated dollars in towards those program expenses that you have to meet. If the CFO put in a little work it would be easy to track and account for those dollars, thus lessening some of the need for unrestricted money.
We need to remember the wishes of the donors and not force their funds to be directed where it will be easier for us but as they wish.