Brent Hafele

Do You Know This Magic Key Question?

Brent Hafele  

It’s not just for PG professionals.  

My colleague was at her wits’ end with a donor we’ll call Philip. Everything about Philip screamed MAJOR DONOR OF THE HIGHEST LEVEL! He had all three As of a great donor prospect:  

  1. Affinity: Philip was a dedicated user of the fitness center, sometimes coming twice a day.

2. Affiliation: He enjoyed the friendship of many fitness center members and staff members.

3. Ability: Wealth screening scores as well as interviews Philip and others who knew him indicated that he had capacity to give a substantial leadership gift.

Adding to the puzzle, Philip frequently shared that he “had a lot of money.” I don’t know too many donors who are that bold!

In spite of his triple-A rating and his claim to wealth, we did not get a substantial leadership gift from Philip. Instead, he gave another $5,000 gift, stating that he wished he could give more.

The Magic Key Question 

At my colleague’s request, I paid a visit to Philip. Again, he shared his frustration that he couldn’t give more. Finally, I asked Philip this Magic Key Question (MKQ):

If there were a way to help you give a more generous gift to the fitness center while helping you save taxes and accomplish your financial goals, would you be interested in exploring that? 

An open door at last! 

Philip thought for a moment and then accepted. His acceptance granted me permission to ask a series of very personal questions that would typically be uncomfortable in other circumstances. But once he understood the purpose, the questions were easy to ask. I asked in detail about his assets, plans for each asset, income, age and financial goals. Philip’s answers to these questions gave us the information to return with a proposal.

Anyone can ask the MKQ. 

The great thing about the MKQ is that anyone can ask it. You don’t have to be a planned giving expert. All you need is a trusting relationship with the donor. The best time to ask the MKQ is when you know that donor is passionate about your mission and has significant trust in you and your agency. When donors know your goals are aligned with theirs, they can relax. This becomes a win-win-win for all involved.

What happens after you ask the MKQ? 

So you did it. You asked the MKQ, and your donor accepted. Now what?

If you are not comfortable discussing planned giving options, you can simply respond by saying, “Wonderful! Thank you. Let me connect you with one of our gift planning colleagues who can help you explore the options.” This person could be your in-house planned giving professional, a contracted estate attorney, or someone from your local community foundation. Regardless, you have opened the do or to the conversation.

If you are well versed in planned giving, go for it. You’ve got an open door and a ready donor right in front of you!

Back to Philip…

Philip responded to our proposal with a generous gift of $206,000 over a period of four years. More importantly, he was thrilled! He was so proud to know his investment made the fitness center even better for him and his community.

Brent A. Hafele, M.A., is Vice President of Client Services with Dickerson Bakker. He provides fundraising, planning, and leadership counsel to nonprofit clients throughout North America. He lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. brent@dickerson-bakker.com

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