This is a classic planned giving quandary. Who are better planned giving prospects: your long-term smaller end donors or your larger major gift donors?
I have no real answer, of course, because it depends on the organization and involves different approaches.
But, I stumbled upon a very telling news piece (from the Lewiston Daily) from 1943 regarding John Pierpoint Morgan’s will (J. P. Morgan himself). The headline: “Morgan Made One Charitable Bequest.”
What was the angle of the story? J. P. Morgan, probably one of the most famous wealthy individuals of his time and certainly a major philanthropist, left only $150,000 to his church as the extent of his charitable bequests. In today’s world, that is equivalent to a multi-billionaire leaving billions to his family and a few million to one charity.
What is most telling from the story is this explanation that came right out of J.P. Morgan’s will for his decision not to include much charitable bequest monies in his will:
“As throughout my life I have been in the habit, to the extent of my ability, of making donations to various benevolent, religious and educational objects in which I have taken much interest, I make no further bequest for such purposes.”
In other words, he took care of many charitable causes during life – his estate was reserved primarily for family.
While organizations must promote planned giving options to their wealthiest and largest donors, it is very common to see the biggest and best not leave anything while the unknown, small end donors leave the big bequests.
I have often reflected on the irony that the little old lady who never appeared on an organization’s radar because she never gave more than $50 in a year, could surpass most or all of the major donors (who consumed untold amounts of staff time and energies) lifetime giving with a million dollar bequest (a typical occurrence in the planned giving world).
If you care to see the article, click this link: JP Morgan Will Article.