The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

Lessons learned.

with one comment

Last week the New York Times published a wonderful story of a multi-million dollar bequest to the Metropolitan Opera that served to remind me of some important lessons for gift planners:

1.  You never know who your best bequest prospect might be. Mrs. Mona Webster, the Met’s donor, had been a fan of the Met from her home in Scotland, via radio, for decades before she surfaced on the Development staff radar.  So, even though we should give lots of thought to who we select for our planned giving marketing efforts, we should never forget the exceptions to the rule.

2.  Stay focused on the donor’s needs, rather than the needs of your institution, and you’ll never go wrong. When I was at Paralyzed Veterans of America back in the 90s, we had a donor who was trying to decide between us and another organization for creating a CGA.  She was thinking of splitting her assets between the two of us.  Our Planned Giving Officer told the donor we would respect her decision and that we could only speak to how the gift to PVA would be used.  The other organization apparently tried to talk her out of using part of her assets to fund a CGA with PVA.  The result:  PVA got the entire amount.  In the case of Mrs. Webster, the Met stewarded her not by focusing on their institution but by focusing on Mrs. Webster and her interests.  In addition to opera, her other love included birds and some of the stewardship by the Met reflected this other love.  I’m sure that illustrated to Mrs. Webster the Met’s understanding of and commitment to her.

3.  People give to people. While on vacation in Scotland, Gail Chesler, the Met’s director of planned and special gifts, visited Mrs. Webster just before she died.  Note:  “while on vacation.”  I don’t know Gail Chesler but that fact suggests to me that her relationship with Mrs. Webster was personal, going far beyond a relationship a donor might have with an institution.  I’m sure Gail Chesler was an important factor in the gift.

4.  Although we may not know about 6 or 7 of every 10 bequests we receive, the ones we do know about, and steward properly, will result in bigger gifts.  The article describes some of the stewardship of Mrs. Webster. No doubt that had a bearing on the size of her gift.


P.S.  Thank you to Jennie Thompson, consultant extraordinare, for bringing the article to my attention.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

November 17, 2009 at 11:50 pm

One Response

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  1. I’ve known Gail Chesler for many years. She’s an example for all of us.

    Lorri Greif

    November 19, 2009 at 10:28 am

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