In this month’s Give & Take we talk with Susan Lampe, director of planned giving at the University of Hawaii Foundation. Having worked in various aspects of fund raising for 21 years both in the Continental United States as well as Hawaii, Ms. Lampe offers her philosophy on gift planning in this “Gift Planner Profile.”
Give & Take: How did you get started in your planned giving career?
Lampe: My first career was as an instructor of Spanish at the City University of New York. I developed my interest in fund raising during that time when I helped raise money for student trips to Spain. From there I began working in the development field. I began with responsibilities for government and foundation grants for community-based youth programs, then I worked for Girls Scouts of the USA. From there I worked on the campaign to fund the renovation of the Statue of Liberty. I learned about corporate funding at the New York City Opera as director of corporate giving under Beverly Sills. So I had an across-the-board background when I moved to Hawaii nearly 11 years ago. In Hawaii, I was director of development for two organizations for eight years. Over time, I spent more and more time on planned giving, saw the enormous potential there, and discovered that I really enjoyed it. So when I was given the opportunity to take the director of planned giving position here at the University of Hawaii, I was very glad to have the opportunity to specialize in this area.
Give & Take: What do you think is your biggest challenge as a gift planner? Does your location offer specific challenges?
Lampe: One challenge in Hawaii is the enormous potential for philanthropy as yet unrealized. This is a very giving community with a rich mix of cultures. One result is the longer time needed for cultivation. So our role is the same here as in other parts of the country–we must educate potential donors and current donors and show them what the opportunities are to help. In that way I think the challenges here are very similar to those anywhere else.
Give & Take: What characteristics do you think a gift planner should possess in order to be successful?
Lampe: A gift planner should be a good listener. Then based on what they have heard, they should be prepared to respond in a sincere and rational manner. I also think gift planners should enjoy people and like surprises. Planned gifts are like snowflakes–there is always something different about each one. It is fascinating.
Give & Take: What keeps you inspired about your work?
Lampe: My inspiration comes from having contact with people with true charitable intent. It is an honor to be able to show these people how they can make a difference in a way they may have never thought of. When we work with people who have genuine donative intent, it is an uplifting experience.
Planned giving also satisfies both the emotional and intellectual needs of the gift planner. It is a constant challenge to listen to the information and think, “How can I help this person reach their goal in the best possible way?”
Give & Take: How do the gift planners in Hawaii, who must often be working with the same small pool of donors, manage to cooperate and work together?
Lampe: It goes back to the Aloha spirit. People treat each other well here and are very considerate of one another and especially considerate of donors and prospective donors. The key is to let the donor drive the situation. We must listen to what the donor wants to do and let that carry us through the process. This especially helps here at the University where we have a fairly large operation with major gift officers, various units, deans, and directors of different programs. Some of the turf issues begin to melt away when we let the donor light the way concerning what he or she really wants to accomplish.
In addition, the fact that we live on an island makes us keenly aware of our neighbors. For example, the person who lives next door to you may be related to someone you work with. We have people who are on our board of directors who are also members of other boards in Hawaii. So we are very careful about how we treat one another. There is a natural cooperation here and our planned giving group also perpetuates that.