“Dogs have no money. Isn’t that amazing? They’re broke their entire lives. But they get through. You know why dogs have no money? No pockets.” ~ Jerry Seinfeld
If you’re a fundraiser full-time, scaling up your thinking about money might not be a problem for you. But if you’re new to fundraising, you need to get comfortable with money, especially gifts of a significant value.
Every day all of us are exposed to things that we would never choose to spend money on and things that have a cost that we could never afford. When I think about my own money, I often worry about if I have enough to cover my own needs and wants, now and in the future. If I’m not careful, my own worry can be transferred to the donor’s situation, and I catch myself asking, “Can the donor afford to give this much money to my organization?”
If you’re stuck in thinking about money from this can-you-afford-it mentality, legacy giving, and asking for any gift, may be hard for you.
In one conversation I had with my father around stewardship and fundraising, he talked about post-mortem fundraising.
“What?” I said. This sounded gruesome.
He said that one of the opportunities he has found as a fundraiser is to connect with the family members of a legacy donor who had recently died.
In one instance, he said to the adult children, “Your mother was a great supporter of ours and we are so appreciative of the bequest she’s left.” And he asked if there would be a family event in the future at which he could report back the impact of her bequest.
At that family gathering, he invited the adult children to extend the gift of their mother by adding their own funds.
My first reaction to this was, “Oh my goodness, this is a grab for cash right in the middle of a vulnerable time and that’s terrible.” Classic what-if-they-can’t-afford-it thinking about money.
But Dad came back and said, “No, this isn’t about a cash grab.” And that he wouldn’t approach anyone callously or casually, but with a lot of sensitivity around the situation.
He said, “Fundraising IS about providing an opportunity. The adult children knew that their mother loved the organization. And that this was an opportunity to honor her memory by giving to a cause she loved.”
As a fundraiser, you raise money from people that want to give money to your organization. As a legacy fundraiser, you are inviting someone to extend their lived values beyond their life, to make something happen in the world that is deeply important to them. This is about what matters to them now and what they want to leave behind.
In that sense, you too have to leave behind your ideas about what is affordable or acceptable to ask for.