Power of Nonprofit Storytelling | Never underestimate the power of a schoolteacher!

May 2, 2016


One aspect of my job that I absolutely love is the opportunity to speak with a variety of nonprofits on a regular basis. Located all across the country (and beyond), these organizations are dedicated to doing great work and creating the kind of change that matters. They do different things and have their own unique perspectives on life in the fundraising lane. A long time ago, though, I noticed that they often respond in a similar way when asked a very specific question. And the question is…

Do you have a planned giving program?

The answer, nine times out of ten, is no.

Here’s the thing: if you know me, you know that I never shut up about “the big picture” and how essential knowing yours is in the quest for longevity and sustainability. Donor-centricity is a crucial element of the big picture, and it always will be. A strict definition is impossible, because donor-centricity encompasses so much. It’s a mindset and it’s a culture. One of its many ideas is the firm belief that your donors are awesome individuals who help make the wonderful work that you do possible.

ElizabethVerdowOne story that made a big impression on me is that of Elizabeth Verdow, an 86-year-old retired schoolteacher who shocked the Detroit Institute of Arts by leaving them nearly $2 million in her will—money that no one knew she had. You can read the short article here. Wouldn’t you love to know Elizabeth’s story?

How many donors are lurking in your donor base – donors you don’t believe have the means to leave a bequest, donors who are quietly giving $50 a year (and receiving little love in return)?

Verdow had ample opportunity to involve herself with the Detroit Institute of Arts, and so she did. Her experiences tied her to the DIA, creating a strong bond between the two of them for life. It created a love, and it resulted in a legacy gift.

The absence of a planned giving program could cost your organization millions of dollars. There’s your sobering truth for Monday, but pick your jaw up off of the floor. You can jump on it now — right now — and before you know it, you’ll be planting seeds in your donors’ hearts and setting the stage for a bright, thriving future.

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