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Viken Mikaelian CEO

Viken Mikaelian CEO

Majorgifts.com LLC

Donors Don’t Just Give; They Invest

“I’m dying,” she said. “I have 4 to 5 weeks to live.”

She is a friend in the planned giving industry. I was devastated. And the conversation gave me a paradigm shift. 

But first read on ….

Busy taking care of her final affairs, she was calling to bequeath me one of her assets. As we ended the call, she said she would try to call me once more and asked me to keep her condition confidential for now, not wanting “mercy calls” from the public.

My own mortality just stared me in the face.

My uncle, in his 80s, often tells me, “Viken, I don’t have many years left. These days, I am thinking about my legacy. Have you thought about yours?”

Now, I think this man will live until he is 100. I hear that generous people are more likely to become centenarians. But his words actually gave me a different twist when it comes to philanthropy, especially in light of my friend’s phone call. I realized that, when it comes to charity, I actually do not like to give.

I like to invest.

And I’m not alone.

Giving vs. Investing


The mere act of giving is not what brings major donors to the table. What they care about is the stamp they will make on the world. They see their gifts as investments in the future—a long-term strategy that will become a part of their legacy.

The older we get, the more we reflect on our lives and begin to consider our individual legacies. For what will we be remembered? What did we do to improve the world?

By giving to a cause or organization they believe in, donors are actually investing in their legacies—legacies that will continue to grow long after they’re gone. They are investing in a way for their loved ones and friends to remember them. One that guarantees that their deep-seated beliefs will live on.

Investing in Immortality


Many fundraisers seem to think that the heart of their job is talking—specifically, asking donors to make large contributions of money. But even the most generous donor doesn’t really like being asked.

Any good fundraiser will tell you that their job is actually about listening. If you listen to your donors and put yourself in their shoes, you’ll learn what’s important to them and, eventually, the values and causes they want their names associated with after they are gone. Only after hearing what matters to them can you help them reach these goals—by educating them about ways to invest in their legacy.

This approach isn’t always second nature—especially if you are a young fundraiser and have not yet considered or planned for your own legacy. But it is a must if you want to be successful. And this is where your paradigm shift must occur.

Ask Without Asking


Try this: the next time you meet with a donor, listen to their story. Then tell them a story about creating a legacy. Talk with them about investing in their own future as well as your nonprofit’s.

Help them to build a dream.

If you do this, the gift may come in before you even make the ask. The donor knows why you are there, after all.

At the end of the day, most donors are a little selfish. They may give, but they do so in order to invest in their own legacies.

It’s your job to show them how to maintain the continuity of their deep-seated beliefs for generations to come.

By the Numbers

Consider the recruitment opportunities for your organization that these stats indicate:

  • About 63 million Americans (25% of the adult population) volunteer their time, talents, and energy to making a difference.
  • These people spend an average of 52 hours/year volunteering.
  • 72% of volunteers are involved with only one organization, while 18.3% are involved with two.

Random interesting stats presented monthly from various sources.