Well, that’s what lots of nonprofits are doing when they ignore the benefit of building an endowment.
Yes, we know all the reasons that your organization is not interested in an endowment. But the facts are overpowering. Over the next couple decades TRILLIONS of dollars will change hands in our country. Folks who were savers, frugal livers and generally shaped by big wars, depressions and other catastrophes will die and collectively leave all that money to somebody.
Why are you and your volunteers not interested in securing some of those funds?
Don’t tell me … I’ve heard it all. No endowments for you because … you’re too small, no staff, no expertise, no time. With that thinking it’s a wonder you think you’ll still be in business in a few years! You just don’t want those ‘forever funds’ that will help secure your future sustainability.
So, let’s look at the reasons you’re wrong about endowment building.
All you “HEGS” who have the “half empty glass syndrome” here are a few things to recognize. You already have the best prospects for an endowment effort. They are your current donors. Stop thinking it’s only rich people who give to endowments. Those are the only ones you read about, because they are unusual.
The fact is, most endowment gifts are relatively small. But they add up!! And many, many more people are capable of a small gift today or in their estate plans for your endowment than there are affluent folks who can give a very large gift. I suspect that your list of donors is much larger than you think. Include everybody that has ever given you money, and then start with those most likely to support your endowment efforts.
You know who those best prospects are? They are your current donors. In fact, they are your only prospects? People who don’t know and love your work aren’t very likely to give you an endowed gift. Yea, I see the windfall gifts, too. But again, you hear about these because they are unusual. That makes them newsworthy.
You need to start talking about the successes that will be possible when you have an endowment with the people who already help you – those that believe what you do is important. Don’t measure them by how much they give you. Measure them by how long they have supported you. If it’s more than a few years, then they are really hot prospects. And remember, when we talk about endowment gifts the possibilities of assets that can be used are numerous. Don’t think only of cash.
So now you’re thinking that you need to be an expert on accepting all different kinds of gifts. Couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s easy to make an endowment gift. Don’t let those big organizations scare you into thinking it takes special people or expertise to get endowed gifts.
Sure, there are a variety of trusts and planned gifts that do require experts. But many an endowment has been built with a very simple strategy. It’s called a Wills Program. You start by asking your key supporters to please be sure to put a gift to your organization in their will. This is the stuff you and your donors already know about. And everybody should have a will. You’ll do them a service by just talking about wills.
Cash is of course the easiest. But, as we’ve said, it may be hard for folks to make a cash contribution today. So remember, it can be a cash contribution that comes through a will. That’s called a bequest, and it’s one of the most common forms of gifts. When folks no longer need to worry about their future they are more agreeable to including your organization in their plans.
So now you’ve heard that making cash gifts today may be harder for many people. So let’s tell them that a gift from their will is as welcome as something right now. Then you don’t have to worry about “competition” for their annual gifts. Tomorrow’s gift is easier than today’s.
Think about how easy that will sound to your donors. They don’t have to worry today about increasing their support to you. Your message is compelling. You are doing great planning for your future. You want to assure that the services you provide will be there for the future. And you have the patience to wait for their gifts a long time. They won’t have to worry about “outliving their resources.” (You don’t want them to think that you are wishing them an early demise…)
And you can even provide them with sample language to include in their will, or add as a codicil. A codicil is an instrument that modifies or supplements their original document. It doesn’t require that any changes be made to the will but rather is an appendix to the document. Click here to get the sample language for a will or codicil – it’s free!
And now the best part. When somebody has made an endowment gift, you need to celebrate it NOW. Whether it’s a current gift or one in their estate plans. Celebrate all endowment gifts today!
Talk about these donors in every possible way. Put articles about them in your newsletter, your blogs, and your annual reports. If they don’t want their name used, tell the story without attribution. Be sure to give them special recognition at your gatherings. Whether it’s an announcement from the podium, a special name tag or a ribbon to identify them as endowment donors; do something to let people know these are special gift givers.
For those who have made plans in an estate document, how about a Heritage Club, or a Legacy Society with lists of the members in every possible place. Consider having a special gathering for your endowment donors, current and estate planned. Let everybody know how important these folks are to you. Others may come forward and tell you of plans you didn’t even know about. And others will want to join this special group.
Don’t ask the size of the gifts or even the nature of them. Just celebrate the growth and success of your endowment effort. And the best way to do that is to talk about what you can do with the earnings. You aren’t a bank, so totals aren’t as important as the benefits to those you serve. Make the connection between the donor and that benefit and you’ll win friends and gifts for your forever fund.
Don’t miss all that money that can come in this huge intergenerational transfer of wealth. Just start now with these easy steps and don’t be surprised when you are the beneficiary of really big gifts over the years to come.
For more tips on endowment education, as well as nonprofit funding, administration and management, subscribe to Endowment Development Institute's Newsletter here.