Opinion/Todd Cohen on change – Family matters

By Todd Cohen

Charities need to get personal.

In dealing with their biggest donors, fundraisers tend to focus on their charities’ needs, and on tools to help donors structure gifts.

But an emerging planned-giving trend suggests a critical hurdle for fundraisers involves donors’ concerns about providing for their families.

“Think of the family as the prospect,” says Charles Collier, senior philanthropic adviser at Harvard and a leading practitioner of “values-based” philanthropy.

Until they gauge how much of their wealth they need for themselves and their families, donors are less likely to make gifts, Collier told higher-education development officers recently at a philanthropy seminar sponsored by Wachovia Charitable Services.

By helping donors chart their personal needs, define their philanthropic values and involve family members in their philanthropy, Collier says, fundraisers can build personal ties with donors that can result in gifts their charities need.

Key roles fundraisers can play, he says, are to help donors identify their “surplus capital,” prepare their children for their financial inheritance and encourage their children to lead their own lives while staying connected to the family.

Whether a gift involves thousands or millions of dollars, getting personal with donors can make asking a lot more productive.

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