Three solutions that might have helped Garth Brooks honor his parents while supporting a local hospital

Slide01How does the top-selling solo artist in U.S. history end up in court suing over a charitable gift? I’m not sure, but it certainly makes the mind wonder what went so wrong. I researched pages and pages of media coverage about the Garth Brooks trial and would like to offer three possible solutions that might have avoided an unfortunate trial that left a donor, a hospital, a city and the philanthropic community divided.

Solution #1: Listen

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” –Robert McCloskey

My development mentor always said to listen, reeeeally listen to what your donors are saying. Take it to heart and, in your own words, repeat back to the donor what you think you heard. When making a solicitation, John D. Rockefeller, Sr. advised in his Ten Principles of Soliciting, first published in 1891: “Let the prospect talk, talk, talk… and listen with deep interest.” True then. True today.

Solution #2: Documentation

“Lack of documentation is becoming a problem for acceptance.” –Wietse Venema

In the field of development, fundraising professionals and volunteer solicitors often use “call reports,” “contact reports” {hopefully} or simple notes to document contacts made with donors. These help with continuity in institutional memory as well as proper donor stewardship. Even and especially in exploratory discussions about a potential major gift, this documentation, combined with timely follow-up correspondence with your donor, may help ensure everyone is on the same page.

Solution #3: Respect the donor

RESPECT by Don Wilson
Respect is a lesson that everyone should learn
Respect must be given before an expected return
Respect is something that’s given for free
Respect is about us and never about me
Respect is the basis on which relationships are founded
Respect is the anchor that keeps a person well grounded
Respect builds the character and defines who we are
Respect sets the standard and raises the bar
Respect is magnanimous and helps to fulfill
Respect is the partner that sits with good will
Respect is like honey so sweet it’s perceived
Respect a taste to savor for when it’s received

If a donor asks for a gift to be returned before it has been spent, respect the donor’s wishes. A recent blog entry by Michael Rosen answers a related issue: Can a nonprofit return a donor’s gift? Read it here.

In closing, no matter what you think of the Garth Brooks verdict, these three simple solutions might have completely avoided the legal dispute. Do you agree?

-Nancy Patterson

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