Named gifts: Part 4

By Todd Cohen

Many charities treat naming opportunities as a way to secure larger gifts, both from donors already interested in making a gift, and from prospective donors who can see other donors creating a legacy for themselves.

“Naming opportunities essentially allow for two things to occur,” says Dan Macaluso, vice president for development, university programs, at Emory University in Atlanta. “One is to honor the donor. Number two is to make philanthropy more visible.”

When Macaluso worked in the development office at Pennsylvania State University, a donor creating an endowment wanted to remain anonymous.

But after Macaluso suggested that naming “was not about puffing them up but about showing the impact that philanthropy can have at an institution,” he says, the donor agreed to name the endowment.

Dartmouth College, which in November launched a $1.3 billion campaign, looks for “as many opportunities as possible to package opportunities for philanthropic investment,” says Trish Jackson, associate vice president for development.

For its biggest naming opportunities, Dartmouth will talk to its best prospects, letting each of them know it is “sharing this with a few of our closest prospects,” she says.

“We use it as a way to begin conversations early with people we think might want to invest,” she says.

And charities find that offering naming opportunities can prompt donors to think about bigger gifts.

When UMass Memorial Health Care was planning to build an emergency department on the University of Massachusetts campus in Worcester, the UMass Memorial Foundation developed an architectural rendering showing what the new building would look like, and placed prospective donors’ names across the top of the drawing.

“It certainly made people think about larger amounts,” says Janet Hedrick, a consultant for Bentz Whaley Flessner, who was director of clinical campaigns and planned giving for the foundation.

The Seattle Symphony, which is involved in an endowment campaign, offers naming opportunities that range from $35 million for its Fund for Orchestral Excellence to endowed chairs for musicians and even seats in the auditorium.

During a phone solicitation for a gift to the annual fund, a subscriber asked whether the symphony had a way for her to make a gift in memory of her husband, says Heather Williams, associate director of development.

A development officer followed up by offering the subscriber the opportunity to name an auditorium seat.

The focus in named giving, Williams says, “is on identifying people who already are involved in a big way with the annual fund.” 

Other stories in the series:

Part 1: Charities, donors play name game.
Part 2: Process for soliciting naming opportunities begins early. 
Part 3: Setting right price for named gifts a key issue for charities. 
Part 5: Charities look for ways to package gift-naming opportunities.
Part 6: Charities aim to avoid gift-naming pitfalls.

Part 7: Gift-naming a strategic fundraising tool for charities.

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