Posted August 1st, 1999

A Rose by Any Other Name…

Editor’s note: The following article is reprinted from the June 1987 issue of Give & Take. We hope you will find it just as thought provoking today.

What do director of development, vice president for development, director of major gifts, director of annual funds, director of planned giving, director of deferred giving, director of special gifts, legacy manager, director of stewardship, vice president for advancement, assistant to the chancellor, president, executive director, stewardship secretary, director of capital giving, associate legal counsel, director of donor relations, director of major and planned gifts, director of resource development, and last but not least, director of fund raising, have in common?

They are titles that have crossed my desk in the last few weeks. Their owners are all involved to a greater or lesser extent in the process on encouraging individuals to support the organizations and institutions they represent.

We are constantly asked about titles by nonprofit managers, wanting to know what titles should and should not be.

Simply stated…

Clearing away the haze, a title should convey to the persons with whom you interact, preferably the donor, just what it is that you do.

Without attempting to come up with a title which fits everyone involved in fund development, we would like to suggest an appropriate title for those involved in helping donors make the significant gifts, whether current or deferred.

Without going into the range of reaction to be expected from a donor or prospective donor who is approached by a director of “major” or “planned” gifts, let’s look at a title which may be a little more descriptive of what is actually going on.

A descriptive alternative

We are seeing many adopt the title, “Director of Gift Planning” or “Vice President/ Gift Planning.” A planned gift is the result, whether current or deferred. The process is gift planning.

A director of planned giving is placed in a passive role by virtue of the language. The director of gift planning is cast in a more active light and one that allows for the possibility that a “planned gift” may not even be made.

A gift planner assists planned givers; he or she does not “direct” their “planned giving.” Even if you choose not to adopt the title in a given situation, consider the concept and distinction. As a result, executives working with the special donors or prospects may gain a new perspective on their role and a greater sense of professionalism while serving their constituents.

Robert F. Sharpe, Jr., is president of the Sharpe company. He advises a number of the nation’s leading nonprofits in the design and implementation of their gift planning initiatives.

Next month’s myth: “The key to success in planned giving is through irrevocable gifts.”

The publisher of Give & Take is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Give & Take may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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