Gift Planning in the Time of COVID-19

By Jon Tidd

I was going to discuss the differences between men and women as donors in this week’s blog. Coronavirus intervened.

Today, few if any charity gift planners are going to meet face-to-face with prospective donors. But that’s not the problem.

The problem is, as history shows, that in times of great uncertainty, prospective major donors sit on their hands. They don’t make major financial decisions. It’s human nature.

Uncertainty today:

In the 44 years I’ve been involved in charitable gift planning, I’ve not seen such a multi-dimensional mess.

How to deal with all this? One answer is to let prospective donors know [a] what your institution is doing to carry out its mission, [b] why support of your institution is important and [c] what your institution is doing to dampen the spread of coronavirus.

In my view, things here in the U.S. will return to normal. My guess is that green shoots are 6 months to a year away. When green shoots do appear, a medical response to coronavirus will be taking hold and businesses and the stock market will be heading back to normal.

In the meantime, gift planners don’t have to sit on their hands. Gift planners have two big jobs to do. The first is communicating with prospective donors about the importance of making sure their estate plans are in order. This has always been important…a key message of normalcy. The second is to plan the message to send to donors once the crisis has passed.

This second message should be thoughtful and should touch on [a] lessons learned and [b] preparing for the future.

Meantime, charities should continue to promote annual giving. Annual giving doesn’t involve deep financial thinking on the donor’s part.

Donors need to understand that during this time of uncertainty and crisis, there’s a need to keep the ship afloat.

 

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