Back to Basics: How to Build a Solid Foundation for Your Non-Cash Giving Program

Before you can start asking donors to consider gifts of non-cash assets, you’ll need to get prepared. You’ll need to build some infrastructure so that you are well-positioned to accept non-cash gifts efficiently and effectively. 

Over the last 20 years, I’ve identified the following essential pieces to building a successful non-cash gift program.

  • COMMIT TO GROWTH
  • DOCUMENT NUMERICAL GOALS
  • IDENTIFY YOUR NEEDS
  • SEEK OPPORTUNITIES
  • ADJUST GOALS

COMMIT TO GROWTH

It sounds really easy, but committing to growth can be complex and a bit unnerving. Committing to growth means committing to soliciting and accepting non-cash gifts and everyone must be on board – you, the board, and management. 

Conversations around non-cash gifts can be tricky and bring out some people’s fears of what they don’t know. Some people in your organization may push back with these common objections:

“Non-Cash gifts take too long.”

“We’re not capable of doing that.”

“It’s too complex for us.”

Here’s how to respond to those objections and alleviate fears.

First, non-cash gifts do take a while to develop, but they are ten to twenty times as large as someone’s average cash gift. The extra time is worth the investment. A little patience goes a long way. This book is going to show you the most efficient ways of accepting each type of non-cash gift so that you can cut down the time it takes to receive these valuable gifts. 

Second, you may or may not be capable of accepting every non-cash gift, but closing yourself off to all of them, is just giving into fear. This book will outline some of the basic things you’ll need to know to decide which non-cash gifts you’re prepared to accept on your own and which ones you’ll need help with. 

Thirdly, non-cash gifts do come with complexity, but with a little basic knowledge and some step-by-step procedures, that complexity will be greatly reduced. This book will give you both knowledge and efficiency. 

DOCUMENT NUMERICAL GOALS

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – you’ll never know if you’ve succeeded unless you know what you’re trying to accomplish. You’ve got to develop your goals. Once that’s done that you can determine what you’re going to need to get there and outline your plan for doing so. 

I recommend developing short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. What do you want your organization to look like in 1 year, 5, years, 10 years? It helps to break down these big goals into increments that are achievable over time. It’s also great to be able to celebrate achieving your short-term goals so you don’t have to wait 10 years to acknowledge your achievements.

IDENTIFY YOUR NEEDS

To achieve your goals, you’re going to need some support along the way. Here are some areas of need that every organization needs to cover before they can build a successful non-cash gift program.

  • Financial
  • Gift Acceptance Policies
  • Staff
  • Communications

Financial Needs come in many shapes and sizes, including travel, materials, technology, and vendors.

PRO TIP: If you don’t have the resources to process all kinds of non-cash gifts, start with some easy to process, but valuable gifts. Let everyone know you accept stock, mutual funds, grants from Donor Advised Funds, and Qualified Charitable Distributions from IRAs. Once these types of gifts start rolling in, they will provide you with extra resources to tackle the more complicated non-cash gifts.

Gift Acceptance Policies have got to be the most boring topic of all when it comes to gift planning. They may be boring, but they are also ESSENTIAL to your success. You need to know which assets you will accept on your own, which ones you will farm out to a helper such as a community foundation. You’ll need to know your minimums for each gift type as well. Well-written gift acceptance policies can help you get out of some sticky situations. If someone wants to donate something inappropriate or that just isn’t worth the time and effort it would take to process it, you can cite your policies as the reason for declining the gift. 

Staff are necessary to solicit and process non-cash gifts. You’ll probably need gift officers to develop relationships with donors. You may need a gift administrator to keep track of vital data about donors and their gifts. You’ll definitely need financial management staff to help evaluate potential non-cash gifts and to appropriately handle/liquidate the gifts once they’ve come in the door. 

Communication is essential. You’ll need a clear, concise communications plan each year. Think of all the different audiences you need to reach to spread the word about non-cash gifts. Make sure you don’t leave any of them out. You don’t need a completely different message for each group, but you should communicate in a way that shows you understand their relationship with your organization. 

  • Donors
  • Prospects
  • Professional Advisors
  • Your Board of Directors
  • The General Public
  • Volunteers

SEEK OPPORTUNITIES

Opportunities for non-cash gifts are all around you. Before long, you’ll begin to spot them at every turn. 

Conversations with just about anyone is an opportunity to plant seeds about non-cash gifts. Gather a few stories of donors making non-cash gifts. Be ready to tell those stories whenever you’re talking to someone on that long list of audiences we listed earlier. When telling your stories, focus on the donor’s goals. What difference were they trying to make for your organization and why did they choose that particular asset? If you don’t have any stories yet – make some up or borrow from your fundraising friends. 

Share your successes! We don’t do this nearly enough and that’s a big shame. When non-cash gifts start happening, tell everyone who will listen. Tell the staff, the board, and the public. People like being part of a successful enterprise. When they hear of the incredible things being done with non-cash gifts, they’ll want to get involved in some way. Maybe that’s with their own gift. Maybe that’s by volunteering. Maybe it will be applying to work at your organization. If there are staff or board members still a bit scared of non-cash gifts, success stories will go a long way towards bringing them around. When they see the positive effects, the scary parts will seem less intimidating. 

ADJUST GOALS

Goals are great, but rigid adherence to them is irrational. The world changes quickly. Goals you set years ago may not be relevant today. Check in with your goals often and make sure they’re still relevant. Be willing to adjust goals up, down, or sideways. Once you start receiving non-cash gifts, you’ll probably want to refine your numerical goals. You may realize you set them too high or too low. My guess is they will be too low. The value of non-cash gifts you receive in the beginning will likely far exceed your expectations. You may realize that you created goals that are no longer relevant, and you need to pivot sideways to achieve something completely different. For example, you may want to raise money for a certain program, but then a year or two later realize that a different program is really what your community needs now. 

GO FORTH AND FUNDRAISE NON-CASH GIFTS!


If you liked this blog entry, there’s more where that came from. This post is an excerpt of selected sections from Chapter one of the award-winning book, Turning Wealth Into What Matters: A Practical Step-by-Step Guide to Accepting Non-Cash Gifts.

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Want to take your non-cash giving skills even further?

Enroll in the Online School for Non-Cash Gifts. It’s on-demand and easy to understand!

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