Rich Anderson “Major Donor Care”

Friday morning while I was on-air during a pledge-drive I received the following text: “Rich, My family wanted you to know that dad (Charlie) passed away this morning.  It was peaceful and his kids were by his side praying and singing hymns.  Thank you for your loving concern these past years.”

I first met Charlie about nine years ago while servicing major donors for an international Christian orphan care ministry.  He was nearing 70 and getting ready to retire.  Upon retirement Charlie informed me that his giving would be decreasing since his income was going down significantly.  It was then that I shared with Charlie how to give through a 401(k) or IRA.  A few years later Charlie’s giving continued to increase and he was diagnosed with Mesothelioma.  Charlie valiantly fought this nasty cancer for five years – significantly longer than the 12-18 months he was given upon diagnosis. While I left the orphan care ministry about six months ago, I continued to check in on my friend.  Three weeks before he died Charlie asked me to pray that he’d serve Christ well until the end; not wanting to get sidetracked from that desire as his body continued to fail.

Charlie’s annual giving increased 750% while I served as his major donor rep, but my main desire wasn’t in seeing that increase.  My goal was to treat Charlie, and the hundred others assigned to me, with excellence, compassion, and respect.  Someday I’ll spend eternity with these “donors” and I don’t want to be remembered for how much money I helped them give but rather how I served them as unto Christ. 

If you don’t have someone on staff serving your major donors, consider adding that task to a leader on your team under “other duties as needed.”  It doesn’t take slick sales skills or a persuasive personality, rather choose someone who will love-on and encourage your most significant donors.  In my experience, larger donors want to know three things:  #1 Does this ministry really need my money?  #2 Are they getting Kingdom results?  #3 Will they be a good steward of my donation?  It also doesn’t hurt for your rep servicing these donors to get schooled on alternative ways to give, most importantly through appreciated assets.

With the new tax changes, soliciting appreciated assets needs to be part of your fundraising strategy.  For most, giving is no longer tax deductible because the standard deduction is so high it trumps itemizing.  Even if you don’t itemize, giving appreciated assets provides great tax benefits.  Take Apple stock for instance: If you owned Apple for three years, your $100 a share stock has turned into a $220+ a share stock and you have better than a 100% profit.  If you sell that stock you have to pay capital gains on the profit you’ve made.  If you give your highest appreciated shares to your favorite radio ministry, you don’t pay capital gains and the tax-deductible value of the gift is the appreciated amount – not the initial purchase amount. 

I do all my giving through appreciated assets which I transfer to a donor-advised fund. You can set one up through National Christian Foundation, or contact your non-profit to see who they recommend. Most of my giving comes from two stocks I’ve held for a long time.  I have a 768% gain on one and a 398% gain on the other.  People who have owned Netflix, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, etc. long-term have similar gains.  It makes no sense to sell stocks with this kind of gain and then to give through your credit or debit card to non-profits.  You can give more through appreciated assets and the net result to your bottom line will be the same.  The only party that comes out on the short end is the federal government as they collect fewer taxes. 

For listeners over 59 ½, giving from a 401(k) or IRA (not Roth) is often the best way to give.  When you pull money out of a 401K this withdrawal gets taxed as income.  If you give IRA/401K money away, you can’t write it off on your taxes – but you don’t pay income tax on the donated amount.  Drawing down your IRA/401(k) through charitable giving is a great way to save income tax in the long run.  Giving this way is most important to donors who are 70 ½ or older as then the IRS requires you to withdrawal a set amount from your IRA and 401(k) each year.  It’s called a RMD (Required Minimum Distribution) and the required amount accelerates as you get older.  When you redeem these RMDs they get taxed as income BUT they don’t get taxed if you give RMDs away to a charity like your favorite non-profit radio station.  This is how my friend Charlie was able to accelerate his giving so much after he retired; that’s my friend who served Christ exceptionally well until he left this world on Friday morning.


Rich Anderson serves as a fundraising host for Dunham+ShareMedia. Rich has over 20 years on-air, in management, and in non-profit fundraising.  While a student at Wheaton College/Wheaton Graduate School Anderson got his start at the legendary AM 1000 WCFL-Chicago. Rich most recently spent nine years as a major donor gift officer for Kids Alive International and 13 years as GM/mornings at the late CHR-powerhouse WAYK- Kalamazoo/WAYG- Grand Rapids.  Since April Rich has been helping non-comm radio stations as a fundraising host/coach for Dunam+ShareMedia. He can be reached at [email protected] or 269-548-7700.

If you have questions about major donor development or general fundraising questions contact the author.

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