Pentera recently wrote a donor story for a newsletter that shows how important a little curiosity can be in generating planned gifts and other financial support.
The organization is a museum that opened a new pavilion a few years ago and gave prospective donors the opportunity to buy a tribute tile along the pavilion's new walkway. One tile was purchased by a longtime member who lived about 400 miles away in another state.
The development staff wondered why someone who was unlikely to visit regularly would maintain an annual membership, let alone buy a tribute tile for someone with the same last name. So they called to say thanks and to gather a little information.
Well, it turns out that the donor's dad had been the museum's treasurer 50 years before, and the tribute tile was in the father's name. The donor said he had basically grown up exploring the museum, had become a member at the young age of 16, and even had a summer job at a research foundation affiliated with the museum. After moving away, he maintained his membership - decade after decade. His sister still lived near the museum, and he would periodically visit her and always include the museum in his trip.
The major gifts officer suggested they get together on his next visit, during which she showed the donor and his sister the offices where their father used to work. It was a powerful, emotional tour. Shortly thereafter, the donor upgraded his membership to the benefactor level. He retired soon after and began visiting more regularly, including attending the opening galas for new exhibits.
The donor then began talking with the gift planning office about creating a charitable gift annuity, and the gift planner helped him take advantage of the tax benefits of funding the CGA with appreciated stock.
All because someone in development asked, "Who is this guy who lives 400 miles away and maintains a membership and buys a tribute tile?"