By Brian M. Sagrestano, J.D., CFRE, and Robert E. Wahlers, MS., CFRE
The concierge at your favorite hotel can make your stay a memorable one, securing dinner reservations, obtaining tickets to a sporting event or show, booking a sightseeing excursion—all the special touches that keep you coming back. If you enjoy life’s finer things, the crossed Golden Keys (Les Clefs d’Or) awarded to top experienced and recommended concierges are a familiar and welcome sight.
Philanthropists who make transformational gifts need to feel a lifetime of commitment to and from a charity. The difference is in the delivery of stewardship activities. Throughout the philanthropic-planning process, this group of donors was worthy of one-on-one attention – and their stewardship should be no different.
Regular interaction and communication are an integral part of a successful stewardship program. Care must be given to not only offer information that consistently keeps donors abreast of the outcomes of their investment but also position the case for making the next gift to an organization. (See sidebar.) Charitable organizations should provide one-on-one support, help and affirmation that are personal and customized to donors’ needs and objectives – “concierge stewardship.”
Concierge stewardship gives donors exactly what they have stated they want to see from an organization. A very creative and customized program mapped out to provide supporters with the seven touches will remind them how valuable they are to your organization.
With competition for the wealthiest donors, charities need to adapt to the needs of donors born in 1946 and afterwards (the new Philanthropists) who have come to expect that their gifts will be honored and put to good use.
Like the concierge service at a fine hotel, a nonprofit- may have a variety of services and items that it can provide to its donors. Organizations will have distinctly different offerings chosen by the development officer, the nonprofit’s primary relationship manager, that are selected based on the fundraiser’s knowledge of the donors and their wishes. This approach gives donors a tailored stewardship regimen. For example, to show the outcomes of their giving, an organization may engage donors by giving a first-hand look at successes. In health- care, supporters may have an opportunity to shadow a physician during afternoon rounds. In higher education, donors may attend a lecture on a topic in an area that they funded. These would be tremendous glimpses into programs made possible by the donors’ generosity.
Stewardship of donors at the top two tiers of the Philanthropic Planning Pyramid should be commensurate with their philanthropy. Concierge stewardship ensures that philanthropists are receiving the attention, information and experiences they expect as investors in the organization’s mission.
Ideally, charities and professional advisers would have the time, volunteers and staff to work with all philanthropists equally. However, with limited resources, charities and advisers need to provide the highest level of attention to those philanthropists who are capable of making the most meaningful and transformational gifts since charitable giving by high-net-worth households to nonprofit organizations accounts for about two-thirds of all individual giving and half of all charitable giving in the United States.
Principal gift or Tier One prospects make up the top 1 per cent of all donors and drive individual gifts philanthropy in the United States. This group expects concierge-level treatment, with charities and advisers working collaboratively to integrate individual goals, objectives and values with philanthropic plans, particularly as the new Philanthropists seek to do their planning. A philanthropic planning program allows for the integration of high-net-worth donors’ values, including the charities they care about, into their financial and estate plans, complementing traditional tax and estate planning, encouraging partnerships with the donors’ own advisers and promoting family strength, unity and involvement. Charities and advisers offering philanthropic planning to their top donors and clients are truly offering them a tremendous service that will serve them and their families for multiple generations.
Perspectives of different generational cohorts
When dealing with major donors, the stewardship of each gift should be customized to meet the expectations of the donor and documented in the gift agreement. Unlike in the past, when a one-size-fits-all approach was applied to stewardship (because charities were stewarding only older donors), differences in generational cohorts now require a more robust stewardship effort to meet different generational expectations.
Traditionalists (born before 1946). Traditionalists have an inherent trust that a charity will use a gift effectively. Because they want to see ideas put to work, their stewardship should include reports and personal contact telling them about how their gifts have made an impact. At a minimum, the stewardship should show how the charity is pursuing its mission in the area about which the donor is passionate. Donor stories are particularly effective in getting the message out that the gift has been put to work and is achieving results.
Leading Boomers (born 1946–1954). As the oldest of the new Philanthropists, their behavior is fundamentally different from that of previous generations. in the case of stewardship, most Leading Boomers are giving to social justice causes to make the world a better place, not just to affect the local community. The vision is larger, so the stewardship must account for it. Leading Boomers make gifts to areas of the charity’s mission about which they are passionate. They expect to get progress reports on the impact that their gifts are having on the targeted areas/populations. They also want to see multiyear progressions, showing how that impact is creating long-term outcomes – solving the problem they wanted to solve. Leading Boomers will seek out opportunities to serve on the board and advisory committees as a way to verify that gifts are being used as they intended and progress is being made.
Charities and advisers offering philanthropic planning to their top donors and clients are truly offering them a tremendous service that will serve them and their families for multiple generations.
Trailing Boomers (born 1955–1964). Trailing Boomers, much like the Leading Boomers, do not trust charities as much as older generations. They are looking for many of the same things as Leading Boomers – the impact of gifts and verified long-term outcomes. However, because they are a bit less trusting of charities than the Leading Boomers, they also want accountability. If they feel that staff is not getting the job done, they will stand up and try to redirect the charity. Their stewardship needs to be all about actual results that they can touch and see.
Gen X (born 1965–1976). The Gen X cohort looks at philanthropy differently. Because they are less focused on their careers and seek more work-life balance, they want to use some of that time to do work for charities, particularly in the areas where they have made gifts. Gen X is much less interested in serving on boards and advisory panels to rubber-stamp decisions made by the staff or the boomers in leadership positions on the board. They tend to be loners who are not interested in socializing with other supporters of the charity. Instead, they want to make gifts that allow them to be personally involved in the work of the charity in the area they are passionate about. They still need to see the impact and long-term outcomes of gifts and will want to see reports to verify that gifts are being used as intended and providing results, but they will feel most engaged when they are actually doing something meaningful. This is perhaps one of the most difficult areas for charities, as most are not prepared to provide real, quality volunteer opportunities for Gen X.
Millennials (born 1977–1984) Because Millennials are still in the accumulation phase financially and have sacrificed earnings to achieve a work-life balance, most of them are not yet making large gifts because they lack the resources to do so. Instead, they seek to actively participate (personally help) to solve a particular identified problem about which they are passionate. If they find such opportunities, they will support them within their means. However, Millennials are different from the other cohorts because they will not let a lack of resources stop them from making a difference. They are truly activist philanthropists and their stewardship.
If charities cannot provide Millennials with opportunities to help personally, they will lose them as volunteers and donors.
Other segments. Substantial research has been done on how to maintain relationships with other segments that might be focused on the mission of a particular charity. If a charity appeals to distinct groups or segments of its population based on other factors, such as gender or sexual orientation, then the stewardship program must account for these differences as well. There is no one right answer. Rather, each charity must build its stewardship program to meet the needs of its constituent base.
The key to concierge stewardship, compared with other customer service that charities or professional advisers may offer, is its proactive nature. Rather than waiting for something to happen, charities or advisers proactively reach out in anticipation of a need. An effective thank-you, recognition and stewardship program will produce donors who feel appreciated and respected. They will be more engaged by the mission of the charity, making them more likely to direct gifts to meet an organization’s needs and priorities. Over time, this increased level of engagement should lead to larger outright gifts.
Well-stewarded donors will eventually look for a wider range of charitable-giving tools to integrate their philanthropic goals for all organizations with their tax, estate and financial planning. They will become shareholders in the charities they support and engage others to support those charitable missions, becoming the best ambassadors for those charitable missions.