Goldilocks and the Three Bears – a Development Office Story | npENGAGE

Goldilocks and the Three Bears – a Development Office Story

By on Feb 9, 2012


Note from Katherine Swank’s below post was featured on Phyllis Freedman’s The Planned Giving Blogger. We invite you to visit her blog for best practices and ideas on planned giving and prospect research.

Either as parents or children, most of us are familiar with the story of Goldilocks who ventures into the woods and happens upon a home inhabited by a family of bears.  Tired and hungry Goldilocks goes into the home and tests each bear’s bowl of porridge, chair and bed until she finds the ones that are not too large, too hot or too hard and not too small, too cold or too soft.  Goldy finds the bowl of porridge, chair and bed that are “just right!”

The image of Goldilocks and the Three Bears immediately came into my mind as I was reading a white paper about planned gift fundraising and how the recent recession has helped it to find “just the right fit” within the fundraising home.

Lois L. Lindauer Searches, a Boston-based recruiting firm has gathered and shared stories from her clients about the evolution of planned gifts into mainstream fundraising strategies.  You can read the paper but I’ve pulled out some of my favorite comments that help us remember that somewhere in our development home, planned giving will be the gift that is “just right” for many of our donors.

Here are some excerpts from her white paper:

  • A strong planned giving program is integral to a healthy fundraising strategy. There is also an understanding that in difficult economic times donors need creative options to continue their philanthropic involvement; In addition to advancing development during tough times, keeping the array of planned giving options on the table is important when the economy is strong, doing so allows for more donor-centric fundraising and optimizes an important revenue source.
  • “Bequests are our strongest gift method.  Our average bequest is $100,000, and despite our limited budget, the planned giving office provides an extraordinary return on investment
  • In the past, major and planned gifts were considered completely separate functions.  But now most development professionals see it is more effective to view major and planned gifts as a continuum of options, so gift officers can create a giving plan that meets each donor’s unique needs.”
  • “We have a strong planned giving person, as well as major gifts people who are hungry and willing to ask for planned gifts.”
  • “Being intuitive, listening to donors, building relationships – those are the key elements for any role in development.  Success in fundraising is measured by inspiring a donor to connect to your cause.”

*Katherine Swank is a consultant for Target Analytics. You may reach her at


Katherine Swank, JD, senior consultant at Target Analytics, a Blackbaud Company, helps nonprofits apply statistical analytics and donor research to their fundraising efforts with an emphasis on planned gifts. She has raised nearly $250 million for mission funding during her nonprofit development career. Katherine is a retired affiliate faculty member of Regis University’s master of Global Nonprofit Management degree program, where she taught courses on wealth and philanthropy.  Along with writing for publications like Advancing Philanthropy and Philanthropy Journal, she is also a frequent presenter for industry conferences such as NACGP, AFP, APRA, and bbcon. Having grown up in a tourist destination in Colorado, Katherine has become an avid world traveler and is exploring her way through the 1,000 places to see before you die, albeit slowly.  Connect with her on Twitter @KatherineSwank.

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