Posts tagged ‘Peter Benoliel’

April 12, 2019

Know When to Stop Asking for Money

When it comes to sound fundraising practice, it is essential to know who to ask for donations, what to ask for, when to ask, where to ask, how to ask, and why you are asking. That should all be obvious.

However, it is also important for you to know when to stop asking for money.

There are many reasons that a fundraising professional should not ask for a charitable donation. Let me give you just one quick example. I want to share a story mega-philanthropist Peter Benoliel told me.

Benoliel said that development professionals should avoid silly mistakes like sending multiple copies of the same appeal, sending a form appeal to a donor who has just made a gift, or ignoring a donor who is in the middle of a multiyear gift commitment.

I asked him for an example. He shared that he was annoyed with one particular charity that sent him a letter asking him to include the organization in his Will. He explained that he had received this letter well after informing the charity that he had already included it in his estate plan.

Benoliel, a sophisticated donor and winner of the Planned Giving Council of Greater Philadelphia Legacy Award for Planned Giving Philanthropist, felt that the unnecessary re-solicitation revealed a lack of appreciation for his support. At the very least, it indicated that the charity failed to properly handle vital details.

Even if he was willing to forgive the mistake, he worried that other legacy donors might not be as forgiving and, therefore, the error could prove costly for the charity. More importantly, if that happened, it would be harmful to those the charity serves.

When fundraising, it is essential to handle the details well. That certainly involves effectively asking for donations. However, fundraising involves so much more. As Benoliel’s story demonstrates, it also involves proper record keeping, successful purging of mailing lists, and appropriate displays of appreciation.

Regarding that last point, I encourage you to take to heart the words of philosopher and poet Henri Frederic Amiel:

Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.”

Showing proper thankfulness and gratitude will help maintain the donor’s commitment and could also lead to additional support.

When the relationship is handled properly, it is certainly acceptable to ask a planned gift donor for another current or planned gift. Consider what H. Gerry Lenfest, another mega-philanthropist, has said on the subject:

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October 26, 2012

5 Fundraising Lessons from a 10-Year-Old and UNICEF

As Halloween approaches, I’m reminded of my childhood years trick-or-treating. I was good at bringing home a huge haul of candy. And, I was also pretty good at collecting money.

Let me explain.

In elementary school, my teacher distributed UNICEF boxes to students. I think I was around 10-years-old when I received my first orange-and-black box. The colors of the box immediately caught my attention because they just happened to be our school colors.

When my teacher explained that UNICEF helps children in need around the world, my friends and I were revved-up to help by raising money from our neighbors.

Collecting for UNICEF was not my first fundraising experience, but it did teach me five valuable lessons that continue to serve me well all these many decades later:

To get, you have to ask.

As a kid, I knew I had two choices on Halloween; I could 1) sit at home and not have any candy, or 2) put on a costume, knock on doors, and ask for candy. Even as a 10-year-old, it didn’t take much effort to figure out that if I wanted to eat candy, I had to get off my rear-end, and go ask for it.

Well, the same principle applied to UNICEF. If I wanted to have money in my box to help kids in need when I returned to school, I’d have to ask for it.

I think you’ll agree that I discovered a pretty simple principle. But, if it’s so simple, why do so many development professionals avoid asking?

At one major, prestigious university medical school, the major gift officers would not get out from behind their desks to go visit prospective donors. Sure, they’d go on the road occasionally, but they never saw as many alumni as they could or should have. To solve the problem overnight, the head of advancement got rid of the offices. Yes, it was an extreme move. No, it was not a particularly elegant solution.

The thinking was that the major gift officers couldn’t hide in their offices if there were no offices. When they were on-campus, they could work in a bullpen to set appointments. Without an office or even a desk of their own, being on campus wasn’t very comfortable. So, some of the major gift officers quit while the others went out and started asking more people for donations. The school started raising much more money.

Give first.

When my teacher distributed the UNICEF boxes, she explained what the organization would do with the money. Then, she asked us if we would agree to raise money to help kids in need. When we all agreed, the teacher added something else. She said that she wanted us to ask others to give only after we had donated first. She told us that we couldn’t expect others to support UNICEF if we weren’t willing to do so.

Peter Benoliel, Chairman-Emeritus of Quaker Chemical, is a generous philanthropist and recipient of the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning of Greater Philadelphia’s Legacy Award for Planned Giving Philanthropist. In my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, I share five suggestions Benoliel offered to development professionals to help make them more effective. One of his suggestions was that “staff and volunteer fundraisers should be morally armed by making their own donation first.”

It was a great lesson to learn early. When I was standing in a neighbor’s doorway with my orange-and-black box, I was able to say something like, “I’ve donated what I can to UNICEF. Can you please give something to help needy kids, too?” There was no way an adult was going to say “No” to a little kid after that.

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