A while back a university we work with sent us a technical question about charitable trusts that included a story about how it went from being 1/3 beneficiary of a trust to 1/2 beneficiary due to its excellent donor relations (and the poor donor relations of another school).
The story makes a great point about the crucial importance of that very first donor contact - and why all donors need to be treated with special care. Here's the story:
This couple was not on our radar at all. They had never made a gift to us, not a penny. The husband called, and a student worker took the message and gave it to me when I returned late in the day. Normally I probably would have put it on my desk to call the next day, but for some reason I took the number home and called that night. I reached his wife, and in trying to transfer to her husband I kept getting cut off. Finally, after about 30 minutes of trying, we made connections.
All I knew was that he was considering establishing a trust that would benefit our school. I told him that I would be happy to make a trip to visit with him and his wife. He responded by saying that I didn't even know what the amount was - and I told him the amount wasn't important. We set up the visit.
During the visit he told me that they were initially considering three schools that he and his wife had attended. However, in the initial call to the third school he told them that he was considering a trust that would benefit their school - and the response was that they would send him a map to the campus and that when he and his wife wanted to come by for a visit someone would meet with them!
Well, needless to say, three schools became two. This couple has made gifts to us totaling close to $50,000 in the past year - and we will be talking with them about an endowed chair.
What a story! The school that lost beneficiary status will probably never know what happened. But it's pretty obvious to everyone else!