A Sharpe Client's Perspective: Washington National Cathedral | Sharpe Group
Posted April 17th, 2024

A Sharpe Client’s Perspective: Washington National Cathedral

Though she is relatively new to the profession, Agnes Solatan has found her calling in the planned giving field. Sharpe Insights recently sat down with Agnes as she shared her experiences during her first nine months as associate director of planned giving at Washington National Cathedral.

Sharpe Insights: What led you to the Cathedral?

Agnes: I’ve worked in fundraising for several years, first with Georgetown University and then with Catholic Charities USA. At both, I was on the major giving side. When the job opportunity became available at the Cathedral in planned giving, it felt like it was the right fit.

Sharpe Insights: Tell us more about that.

Agnes: Planned giving is intentional and personal. I enjoy talking to donors and learning about their relationship with the Cathedral and then helping them create a legacy gift. And I have a boss with a wealth of knowledge who I learn from every day.

Sharpe Insights: Your boss is John Jensen, a former Sharpe Group consultant and well-regarded expert in planned giving.

Agnes: He’s a rock star! I knew right away the knowledge I would gain from John would be invaluable. I pick his brain every chance I get. He will bring me along on donor visits and gives me opportunities to participate in meetings with senior staff at the Cathedral and executors of estates to listen and learn as much as I can. When bequests or other planned gifts come in, he takes the time to explain the details and answers all my questions.

Sharpe Insights: What are some of the educational opportunities you’ve taken advantage of?

Agnes: I’m at my best when I am learning. During my first month at the Cathedral, I attended a Sharpe seminar in Alexandria, Virginia, that is specifically designed for professionals who are new to planned giving. While some of the information was relatable because of my major giving experience, some was all new—especially learning about all the different gift planning vehicles. I learned what I need to know when I am sitting across from donors. I attended the local CGP conference in June in DC, and last October, I attended the national CGP Conference in Chicago. Both the local and national CGP conferences were great opportunities to network and learn how other charities run their planned giving programs.

Sharpe Insights: What is your planned giving marketing strategy?

Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral

Agnes: At the Cathedral, we still rely heavily on print, doing several mailings a year that include newsletters (featuring a donor story), brochures or postcards that Sharpe creates for us. Each mailing has a response device so donors can send it back, showing their interest or asking for more information, which John or I will follow up on. Currently, we are promoting our Legacy Challenge campaign, so we have been highlighting that in all our marketing.

We send email communications, including an enewsletter, have a Sharpe planned giving website and use Sharpe’s booklets for follow-up. We also work with our communications team to market planned giving through other Cathedral channels.

Sharpe Insights: Favorite donor interaction?

Agnes: I have been corresponding regularly with a lovely local couple who recently let me know they have already included the Cathedral in their estate plans. They were delighted to hear about the Cathedral’s Legacy Challenge and will participate. While all of our correspondence has been through email, I hope to meet them one day so I can thank them in person for their very generous and thoughtful legacy gift. ■

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