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60-Second Inspiration: Gordon Smith, National Jewish Health

14 Sep 2018 5:27 PM | Anonymous

What is the single best piece of advice you can give to a fundraiser?

I think one of the hardest things for fundraisers is prioritizing their time. The most important thing is to stay focused on your donors and doing what is necessary and sometimes not necessary, to cultivate the donor and the gift. It is so common to get pulled into numerous projects and meetings and asked to prepare reports few of which have a positive impact on moving your donors forward in the cultivation process. Stay focused!

What’s the one book you would recommend to a fundraiser and why?

For anyone interested in learning about gift planning or in just having a reference book on the subject, I strongly recommend “The Complete Guide to Planned Giving” by Debra Ashton

What’s the one fundraising blog or periodical you recommend fundraisers subscribing to?

I find it really important to stay up with tax law and legislative changes. I follow several sources and frankly don’t feel that any are great. “Planned Giving Today” sure tries however.

What’s your favorite donor story?

I have been fortunate over my career to have many wonderful donors and could tell several stories. The one I would like to share now is of a woman from very modest means who suffered most of her life with asthma. She gave small gifts to National Jewish but they were consistently given year after year. We learned that she had included National Jewish in her estate plan through a mailing and I tried to contact her to thank her and set a visit. She was happy to speak with me by phone but not comfortable having me visit. I said I would keep in touch and did.

Over the course of several calls I learned she was leaving her home to National Jewish. When she moved into a nursing home we received her home, which was worth about $110,000. I came to learn that her estate was only about $150,000. She was giving us almost all of her modest estate even though she had family. After she moved into the nursing home she was willing to have me visit. I learned that the reason she didn’t want me to come to her home was that she was uncomfortable being alone in her home with a man. It was a perspective that I hadn’t heard and was glad to become sensitive to.

We became very close over the following 2-3 years before she died and I visited her whenever I could. We prepared a testimonial article highlighting her gift and she was so proud. While the gift wasn’t huge in many of our eyes, it was huge to her and I was especially pleased to honor her for her wonderful gift.

Institute for Leaders in Development at University of Denver | University Hall 301 2197 S. University Blvd. Denver Colorado 80208 | ildcolorado@gmail.com 

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