How to Bridge the Gap Between You and Your Wealthiest Donors

Warren is 75 years old. He is an annual giver to ministries of $5000. He attended a presentation sponsored by a particular ministry on Estate Planning and Planned Giving. As a result of the presentation, he decided to gift stock to a Charitable Trust. He sold the stock without any capital gain and received an upfront deduction based on the future value of the gift. He was able to increase his income two-fold and his giving by $5000.

Two years later, Warren died unexpectedly of a stroke. Warren’s church received $250,000 and Warren’s college received $200,000. The charity that sponsored the Estate Planning workshop and introduced him to planned giving received a generous gift of $963,000.

Ministries that actively teach and counsel techniques and strategies on planned giving usually receive a bulk of the inheritance and an increased gift each year. Donors have a generous way of saying thank you without you even having to ask! I’ve heard it time and again…they appreciate that they are not just being asked for more money, but that you have their interests and needs in mind as well and are willing to spend the time and effort showing them how to create a win-win situation.

Why is it important to think about planned giving now more than ever?

We are currently in the 6th year of a bull market and in the 15th year of a long-term secular bear market, which has an average return of .30%. The markets are very close to a dramatic down turn that could impact giving in a significant way. If you are the development officer of a ministry, you have probably seen this before: annual giving goes down, the need for services goes up and, if you have an endowment – the income is limited.

Planned giving can become a win-win solution if you make an effort to educate your partners/donors. This education needs to be ongoing and focused, and it should be sensitive to the unique needs of a wealthy donor. Are you aware of the strengths of the donor that you can’t possibly match as well as the strengths you bring to the relationship as a Christian ministry?

Is there a “gap” between you as a ministry and your wealthiest current and prospective donors? Let’s look at eight potential “gaps” and determine which are the donor’s strengths and which are yours. The reason this is important is that if you use your strengths, you are more likely to get their attention and respect.

  1. Emotional Gap: One of the strongest traits of a wealthy individual that distinguishes them from most is the ability to not allow their emotions to get in the way of their job. If they own a company, they must manage and monitor daily duties no matter might be happening at home or in the world. They tend to have a unique ability to distance themselves from problems in order to grow the business. This is not a typical strength of a development officer, nor should it be.
  2. Economic Gap: Do you have a sense of what it is like to be able to live on a million dollars a year? Do you know what it feels like to fly in your own jet or to cruise the oceans in your own boat? Although it is a nice gesture, buying a wealthy individual lunch is not going to have a huge impact on them – or the best way to get them to listen to you.
  3. Lifestyle Gap: Wealthy individuals hang out with other wealthy individuals for obvious reasons. Most people that approach them that are not wealthy are looking for something – and they know that! They live in huge homes and belong to exclusive country clubs and have one or more vacation homes around the world.
  4. Spiritual Gap: This is a strength that you typically have over them. While most wealthy Christian donors attend church regularly and do have a love of the Lord, they have not spent their lives studying the Bible and devoting their life to serving the Lord. They are hungry for more knowledge about their Christian walk and appreciate prayers and information that can help them see what God desires from them. They want to serve Him, but are not quite sure how.
  5. Power Gap: Obviously, they have all the power. If they decide to cancel an appointment at the last minute, you are not about to complain…you know better.
  6. Social Gap: There are events that they go to that may cost a $1,000 per plate. They don’t blink an eye at the cost, and the clothes they wear may be more expensive than your entire wardrobe. The parties that they sponsor and go to are events that only the wealthy can afford, and they all know that. They have few friends, and all of them are generally wealthy like them because they can talk about the same things and feel at home.
  7. Vision Gap: This is where they need you. Your vision for the future is all about God’s story for your life. They normally have visions and mission statements for their businesses, but they never think to do the same thing with their family. They are hungry to know more about that and to pass a legacy of love and faith to their children. You can help!
  8. Life Priority Gap: Again, they have spent their lives accumulating wealth, and they are good at it. They seldom think about the most important priorities in their lives. They have nannies and many people to make their lives simple and uncomplicated. They have a nagging desire to make right with their spouse and children and God. They are hungry for wisdom and direction and support in these areas.

If you spend time on the strengths you bring to the relationship—that can truly help them instead of trying to focus on what they already have… you will have their ear and loyalty. This needs to be a priority for your ministry and for you as a development officer. The wealthy donor/prospect needs you. Figure out your strengths and only share what they do not have. Believe me, the time spent will pay off handsomely if you spend time giving them what they need and want.


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joe-sturnioloBy Joe Sturniolo
Christian Family Legacy and Wealth Planning
Joe believes that stronger families are the vehicle God uses to bring
about significant impact for His Kingdom.

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