The first most common reason has nothing to do with the size, age or activities of your nonprofit. It has to do with your attitude.
You wish you had a big endowment. And that’s all you’ve ever done. Wish for one.
Second, again is your problem. It’s called procrastination. We can fill pages with reasons we can’t do something. What are you waiting for? To have everything in place? You’ll wait and wait and your key donors – the ones who have been supporting you for ages – will be dead. That limits your opportunities to talk about endowments.
Third, you think endowment gifts have to be BIG. Well, forget that idea. Your thinking is conditioned by the media that only talks about big gifts. If it isn’t tens of millions it doesn’t get ink today. But remember that you support your work with many contributions of all sizes. And work with your donors to increase their support, and consider gifts other than cash.
Do the arithmetic. Do you have 500 donors who could give you $250 per year for four years? That gives you $500,000. That’s half a million dollars in your start-up endowment. And of course, some do more and some less. You’re not a big university that has been working on endowments for years and years. They didn’t start with big gifts. They probably started by asking every alum to send in something each year. They BUILT big gifts. You can, too.
Fourth, your board doesn’t get it. Some think an endowment effort will take away from the annual gifts. There is no evidence of this. In fact, it’s often INCREASED annual giving because you have demonstrated your interest in being around in 50 years. Others think it’s too complicated and will require new staff. Wrong. Begin with your current team, whether that’s 2 or 20. The techniques are easy and quick to put in place. As mentioned, it just takes getting the word out and asking.
If you have one or two volunteers who believe, they are your “champions.” Work with them and don’t waste time on those who aren’t excited about the idea. Success will begin to change minds and build more champions.
Change is difficult. You’ll hear all manner of resistance from nay-sayers. “Never did it before, why now?” “Already overloaded staff without time for it.” “We’ll need one of those planned giving experts and we can’t afford that.” Don’t let them wear you down. Just press on!
And fifth, it takes too long. Ah yes, the old thought that today’s need is more pressing that the future. We have to use every cent we get to help today. Well, if you and your gang are not concerned about the future of your organization, I suggest you get a new job.
If you believe in your mission, you believe that it will be important tomorrow as well as today. And you can only secure tomorrow on a strong financial base. That includes some income from your endowment. Your other fund raising activities will continue and change over time. And as the world changes your future will be more uncertain. The story of what an endowment does for the “big guys” should be a model for your organization, not a threat. Your donors are your donors. They want to help you. Give them as many ways as possible to do that. With today’s gifts, tomorrow’s gifts and especially in their estate plans. That’s the place from which come your biggest endowment gifts.
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