People Give to People

A friend in fundraising told me a story recently that highlights the importance of relationships and doing the right thing.

A development officer for a small Christian college had a dilemma. His boss wanted him to stop visiting a $500 a year donor and pursue larger gifts. But the officer liked the widow and enjoyed visiting with her. So he continued to see her once a year when he was in the area and simply did not tell his boss.

The woman died and six months later an attorney called the officer to inform him a gift from the estate was coming via certified mail the next day.

$2.9 million.

From a fundraising perspective, there are several problems with this amazing story. 

  • The woman had accumulated several plots of farmland.
  • She had been widowed for several years.
  • She had no children and no apparent heirs.
  • Yet, no one at the college thought to address estate planning with the donor.

In fact, the boss, in a short sighted attempt to chase larger gifts, wanted to quit visiting the donor. Despite these significant failures at the Fund Raising 101 level, the College still received a seven figure gift. 


The development officer liked the donor. She was his friend and she looked forward to his visits.

I still scratch my head and wonder why the officer never mentioned estate planning on any of his visits. My guess is he was not trained to do so. But fortunately the fundraiser intuitively knew something far more important than the differences between a Charitable Remainder Trust and a Gift Annuity. 

People give to people.