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What Members Are Thinking and Sharing

Jeff Koterba


Live-In Liability?

Q. Our director has been cultivating a planned gift from an elderly couple for several years. Recently, he moved in with the donors—and has no plans to stop soliciting them. I'm not sure our vice president is aware of the situation. What should I do?

A: Tell your VP, but only the facts. Don't embellish, speculate, or question the director's character or motives. This couple deserves to be treated with respect and kindness by your institution, and as prospective donors, they need to be managed as institutional resources. The circumstances that you describe, including the couple's age and the fact that the director has not informed the VP, raise a red flag. Further investigation is warranted, but we should suspend judgment until the facts are in.

—James Langley, president, Langley Innovations, Frederick, Maryland

A: Many fundraisers develop meaningful and authentic relationships with donors, but spending time as a houseguest while on business travel or meeting for the occasional glass of wine is very different than taking on the permanent role of boarder or caretaker! There are a lot of unanswered questions here, and someone (not you) needs to answer them. Gift planners care about our donors, but we have to maintain professional boundaries. Tell your VP the basics, and let's hope your director can find more appropriate roommates soon.

—Beth Fiencke, director, gift planning strategy and stewardship, The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, Virginia

Oops illustration

Oops! The Lessons We Learn When We Make Our Worst Mistakes

I work in alumni relations for a major U.K. institution. We used to publish a list of recently deceased alumni in our magazine. Days after an issue mailed, a gentleman came into our office with the magazine, claiming we'd killed him off. Indeed, our database indicated that we had logged a phone call from someone who had reported him deceased. His friends from university had seen the notice, decided to have a collection in his memory, and called his mother to make sure that was OK. Luckily, she knew right away it was a mistake and alerted him. To make things even worse, this alumnus was also an employee of the university! He was very good about it, but we were appalled.

The lesson: We realized two major holes in our process. One was that our database only tracked the last person who made a change to or opened a record, so we had no way to know who in our office had logged the call. The other was that although we rigorously verified alumni address changes and job titles, we did not verify death notifications. Since this incident, we get as many details as possible from the person reporting the death and mail a condolences letter to the surviving spouse or family.

Art credit: Irina Kruglova

Recipe for disaster

A Recipe for Disaster

The social media team at Colorado State University discovered that making a cute recipe video wasn't as easy as it looked. Find out what they learned (have extra ingredients on hand in case you burn a batch!), and try their yummy-looking popcorn-ball recipe.

For more ideas on working with food and partnering with dining services on your campus, check out the #casesmc SnackChat Twitter recap.

Photo credit: Colorado State University




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