|courtesy of Northlands Rescue Mission|
When devising your museum’s fundraising strategy, your primary concern is typically immediate and outright gifts. Planned giving is often the afterthought, and, in most cases, forever on the to-do list. There are countless pieces of literature available (both costly and inexpensive) that advise museums of all staff sizes and operating budgets how to better improve their planned giving program, how to better market their planned giving program, how to discuss their planned giving program… very helpful, but who says anyone actually acts upon a book’s advice? Some of the advice and suggestions I’ve read in excerpts that focus on small museums seems, to me, unrealistic and ignore the real problems of small museums. If a museum says they are understaffed and have no room in the budget for planned giving anything, why would a book suggest the museum send their sole development worker to a 3 day conference 4 states away on their own dime? I may not have 40 years of development work under my belt just yet, but this seems like an unfair and unreasonable expectation.
While these books do offer plenty of valuable and helpful insight, my most rewarding research has been through conversations with planned giving experts, development professionals, and through my survey results. Hearing directly from planned giving consultants the number one common challenge that non-profits face (in terms of starting up a planned giving program) is immensely more helpful and credible to me than reading from a secondary source. Speaking with a development professional that actually doesn’t work at an art museum, but at Habitat Humanity, was surprisingly helpful. This professional was able to clearly explain the challenges she faces, and why they are in no rush to further develop their planned giving opportunities. There are two very fair sides to the argument of planned giving, which most of the sources I have read do not present.
Not only did these interviews provide useful information for my research and writing, but these conversations helped shape the direction and focus of my thesis. While the books have been enormously informative, I can’t ask a book a question and receive an insightful response. The consultants, professionals, and experts I spoke with were unbelievable kind, helpful, and generous of their time and knowledge. Their input is what I believe makes my thesis unique, and more credible.