Donor Education: ”Low hanging fruit” – Small Amount/Low Scale Donors

Low scale donors are important, but for different reasons from why major gift donors are important. Low scale donors are not as focused on financial planning since their gifts are smaller and go typically to general university programs/current-use funds for general operations. Donor engagement programs can focus more on how giving benefits these donors within the organization/institution (free tickets to a concert, etc.); on stepping up their donations (i.e. from 25 to 100 dollars); and on the increased outcome of their giving. Low scale donors can also be used as general ambassadors to recruit other alumni/donors in the area.

Low scale donors can be surprising planned giving donors. Frequently those that give modest amounts during their lifetimes are financially frugal about every dollar they spend. That can very well mean that they are good savers, that they build up a large estate and donate more significantly (when educated on the benefits of planned giving) at death.

What are your plans for including donations as a part of your estate at death?  How will you honor those organizations you care about?  Share your comments or questions below.

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit,


  1. Your title caught my eye, but it is clear that we approach the issue of donor education from very different vantage points. When I founded the NYU Academy for Grantmaking and Funder Education and subsequently the Wise Philanthropy Institute, it was to teach donors from the perspective of what donors need to know to make informed and effective grantmaking decisions. Your approach seems to be directed toward estate planners and non profits who want to cultivate potential donors; I and we teach those committed to giving who are in need of some competencies to do it well.

    I fully understand and respect your approach but i fear that it may make folks leery of ours. We don’t try to push anything or any contracts – we just educate. Many folks immediately ask, for example, if i am simply a tool of NYU’s development office I am not and would never share the names of our “students” with them. Nor would our firm ever consider taking any contract which had any development component. This is probably simply an issue of nomenclature: I would be much more comfortable if you used the term “cultivation” rather than “education” since it would help distinguish the kind of help you provide, which indeed has its place and I am sure is done well to the kind of education we provide – which is quite different.


    • Thanks for your comments. I find them interesting. Most of the time I am representing donors not institutions and am quite active in making sure they understand the options and have a handle on donor intent and where they are on that spectrum. I do agree that from the charitable institution side the right word is cultivation. Thanks for sharing. Patricia

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