Leadership Real Estate Gifts

by Dennis Bidwell
September 2012

Let’s assume you are revising your gift acceptance policies and procedures to clarify which types of real estate gifts your organization will accept, and to streamline your process for handling them, including a donor-friendly approach to gift screening and due diligence. And let’s assume you’ve figured out the profile of a likely real estate donor to your organization.

Typically, development of a marketing program—web presence, newsletters, magazine advertising, etc.—would be a next step in the process of increasing the quantity and quality of the real estate gift inquiries you receive.

But I want to suggest an intermediate step that has worked at many organizations. And that is this:  Identify one or more board members, or other prominent friends of your organization, who fit the profile of a potential real estate donor (65 or over, facing decisions about one of their several  pieces of real estate, children are otherwise provided for in estate planning,…), and start a conversation with them. Do you think it’s far-fetched that a real estate gift might materialize from these conversations?  Remember what the late John Brown (founder of John Brown Limited) was fond of saying:

“There’s a real estate gift sitting around the table at your next Board meeting.  It’s just that no one has ever connected the dots.”

My experience tells me this is true.  Many organizations have a near and dear friend who has given generously over the years, but who has never been approached about their property holdings. And when such people are approached about whether the timing might be right to consider a gift in some fashion or another, they sometimes reveal that not only is the timing right to dispose of a property, but they would be honored to make a “leadership” gift that can serve as inspiration to others to consider doing something similar.

When a gift like this closes—and it won’t happen unless someone works to make it happen—your organization then has the perfect story for a marketing effort. Then your real estate gift ads aren’t hypothetical case studies. Rather, they tell the real story of a prominent friend of the institution.

So I encourage you to convene a brainstorming session of a few folks with long-term institutional memory and knowledge, with familiarity with your board members (and others closely associated with the organization), and to generate a few possible candidates for the real estate gift conversation.

Believe me, real estate gifts do happen this way. Just give it a try.