Arlene Cogen spent more than 20 years in the trust and investment services industry, and 9 years in non-profit development. She is a sought-after speaker and coach as well as a certified financial planner. Arlene is also the author of Give to Live: Make A Charitable Gift You Never Imagined.
Why is philanthropic giving so important?
People give to causes for so many different reasons. Some have overcome something they never imagined possible. Business owners give because it promotes their business and it shows that they care about their community. Science has found that when you give away money, it stimulates the prefrontal cortex of your brain, which makes you feel joy. We help people self-actualize through giving.
What do you see nonprofits doing well to attract people?
Nonprofits are passionate about their work and do amazing things. The best ones are excellent storytellers – they get out and interview recipients of their work and show the actual impact they’ve had in the community.
What is holding people back from taking it to the next level with an organization?
People don’t see leadership by the board of directors. Many organizations let their board off too easily. The board needs to lead by example in helping raise funds, “I’ve given, join me.” Donors like to know that all the board members have given. Also, nonprofit leaders need to look generationally, meaning how each generation decides to give away their money. The older generations come in as successful people with more money to give, but millennials give differently and want to have an experience before giving. Fundraising is like sales. What’s in it for the donor? Do they know, like and trust you? You have to ask.
What is it about being a certified planner that gets you excited?
Credibility – do they know, like, and trust you?
Why did you decide you wanted to write a book?
Born out of 20 years of trust and investment work and 10 years of working with nonprofit organizations, I wanted to break down my knowledge into bite-sized pieces so people could digest the information easier and so it’s available to everyone. I want people to understand that it’s not just about the affluent. Next to your spouse, the most powerful person to your donations is your financial planner. The book is a great tool to hand donors so they can begin to make gifts they never imagined.
If you feel like giving is out of your range, what is your advice on getting started?
The first thing you should do as a fundraiser is to make a charitable gift to your organization, which goes back to the “I’ve given, join me.” Also, a large amount of people who modestly give goes a long way when you have a lot of people invested in the work you’re doing. If the senior leaders/executives aren’t giving to their organizations, then there’s something wrong. Those people should not be serving in your top leadership roles. You want A+ volunteers in your top leadership because they will bring in A+ volunteers. The same goes for giving. If you have C and D level board members, they aren’t going to bring in A+ level philanthropic givers.
What do you want nonprofits to know about philanthropists? What could change things?
Philanthropists want to give and it’s yours to lose. They want to give and make a difference. Connect their values with your values and steward them greatly.
Development and nonprofit executives really need to meet with their donors. Donors have a lot to say and share and too often we leave it to development staff and volunteers. The more you can connect with your donors, the more they will give. And if the executives don’t know how to ask, they need to bring someone along who does. Or, take fundraising courses to understand how to do it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.
You can purchase Arlene’s book, Give to Live: Make A Charitable Gift You Never Imagined, on Amazon. To receive the last chapter and reflection workbook, email Arlene at email@example.com or visit arlenecogen.com.