Scarcity Mindset is Killing your Legacy Program

I recently listened to a very interesting podcast where Ephraim Gopin, 1832 Communications, interviewed Cherian Koshy CFRE, Des

I recently listened to a very interesting podcast where Ephraim Gopin, 1832 Communications, interviewed Cherian Koshy CFRE, Des Moines Performing Arts, while they discussed nonprofit sustainability.

Cherian was right on point. He discusses how the nonprofits fail at planning for the long-term and at functioning with a financial, institutional and programmatic sustainability mindset. As he puts it, this happens because nonprofits function with short-termism, or in other words, with a scarcity mindset.

Let’s explore how these impact your legacy efforts.

  •  Operating from a place of fear

Needless to say, when we operate from a place of fear, we fail to tap into the abundance that surrounds us and we avoid taking risks. The same applies to nonprofits.

When it comes to legacies, many fear:

  • that investing in legacies will put their other fundraising strategies at risk
  • that talking about legacies will scare away donors
  • that they’ll never see any income come in from legacies
  • that it’s impossible to project future income
  • that the ROI isn’t worth it
  • And on and on and on

Yet evidence and research shows us that none of these things are true. So how do we overcome this? We must rely and share the research that’s available. We must tell donor stories from your organization and from other organizations. We must set clear, non-financial KPIs that focus on pipeline growth and engagement to demonstrate donor buy-in. We must remain relentless in our efforts to advance legacy giving.  

  • Everything is a trade-off

The way gifts are framed as a way to inspire donors limits the opportunity to give for the long-term. Take for instance giving categories to help frame the value of gifts: $50 enables X, $10,000 enables Y. While this approach does help donors better understand the impact their gift can have, it can also limit their giving to these concrete examples. Instead, how about engaging donors in a deeper conversation about the organization’s long-term vision so they can be part of it? 

Should we stop framing gifts using donation brackets? Absolutely not! We should continue doing so AND start having more long-term vision conversations with ALL donors, not just major gifts or legacy donors.

The time to change the narrative starts today!

  • Wasted resources

This one is a doozy. Nonprofits are constantly wasting resources – especially human resources (us!). There is great fundraising talent out there but they are not being used appropriately and at their full potential. Take for instance how most fundraiser’s are evaluated: that is, based on annual income raised. Of course, we must be evaluated on income raised, after all we’re *fund* *raisers* but the mindset that keeps fundraisers running after the quick money that will meet the annual budget is the problem. Not to mention the possible ethical risks that could ensue.

It creates a culture where only immediate income is valued and anything that will be disbursed in the future is perceived as time wasted. I’ve been told that by Executive Directors and board members countless times, have you? It’s demoralizing and contributes to the high turnover, burnouts or professionals exiting the sector altogether.


What if, as a sector, we stopped focusing so much on the income raised and started pushing for KPIs and evaluation metrics that are based on engagement, conversations, length of relationships maintained, contributions to the long-term vision, etc.?

Am I being idealistic? Perhaps. Are the suggestions mentioned above impossible to do? Absolutely not. What we need is a COLOSSAL shift in the way we operate as a sector and that can’t happen if we continue on the current trajectory. What part will you play in this mindset shift?

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Are you ready to start your legacy program?

Does your legacy program need CPR?

What if I told you that for only 7.2% of one legacy gift, you can learn how to engage in legacy conversations with donors and raise lots of money for your organization?Join us for the September Online Legacy Bootcamp starting on September 16. Registration is now open! Don’t wait, there are only 12 spots open.

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