Memorandum of the Case of the Central Park Children’s Zoo
First of all, getting to know more about the new major donors before reaching agreements is important. Basically, some major donors donate a gift to a nonprofit because they want the nonprofit to use the money to what and how they promise and probably may not get involved in making plans. However, some donors are hands-on donors. If a nonprofit comes into contact with hands-on donors, they may want more from the nonprofits. They will try to make a plan which they think is good for the nonprofit or partially good for them, and get involved more than they should.
Take Henry and Edith Everett, who were potential major donors of Central Park Children’s Zoo, as an example. Henry Everett visited other children’s zoos and gave suggestions on the zoo’s design and operating, and the Everetts cared so much about the design of the entry gate and their naming on it. It may be good to have a hands-on donor because he or she may have some new ideas to bring in and help the nonprofit as a volunteer. However, those donors may also have more say or controls in the nonprofit, which may impact the regular operation or decision making of the nonprofit.
As a result, it is important to know more about the major donors’ philanthropic history, especially when the donors are new for the nonprofit. If the nonprofit thinks that they can not have a good relationship with the donors, they should not make an agreement to receive the gift. For example, if the donors are hands-on donors, and the nonprofit does not want the donors participate so much on management, they may reject the donation. If the donors’ principles or behaviors mismatch with the nonprofits, the nonprofits should not accept the gift even though it is a large one.
The second suggestion is dealing with the major gift and the relationship with major donors wisely. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which was the organization that was in charge of rebuilding the Children’s Park, did both good and bad jobs on handling the Everetts’ gift. The president and the vice president of WCS, William Conway and Jennifer Herring, warned the Everetts that the final form of acknowledgement would depend on different related parties that had a say in the plan.
It is beneficial not to firmly promise the donors on something undecided or can not be guaranteed. However, the WCS could do more on explaining the process and the result of every process of the plan to the Everett. The WCS did not need the Everetts to attend the meetings of the plans; they even did not tell them more details on the meetings. When the Everett showed impatience of the long-time process of the plan and the repeated changes to the zoo’s design, the WCS should comfort them and explain the reasons for them. It seems the WCS did not care the major donors carefully enough.
If the WCS had communicated more with the Everetts, their relationship would not end. Even though a nonprofit wants to withdraw a major gift, it is significant to keep the relationship with the major donor. The donor may still donate for other programs in the future, or they may ask someone else to give gifts to the nonprofits that he or she has a good relationship with or a good impression on. In addition, having a good relationship with the related parties of the plan is highly needed and is as important as with major donors.
Related parties here include important previous donors, municipal agencies, and various community stakeholders and philanthropic community. Those relationships involve the reputation of the nonprofit, the cooperation between the nonprofit and the parties right now and in the future, the results of the nonprofits’ plans and programs, etc. The WCS did a good job on respecting the previous donor of the zoo. They insisted on crafting the names of the funders on the entry gate no matter how many times the design plan changed. Also, philanthropic context is not the same as the one in business and government.
It focuses on using donors’ gift to benefit the target customers, not for the donors’ themselves or the nonprofit itself. It is hard but necessary to balance the relationship with all the parties that get involved. To sum up, in order to handle the $5 million potential donation with such a complicated philanthropic environment, I recommend withdrawing the major donation carefully. ABC Nonprofit should be aware of the donor’s background, should manage the major gift wisely, and should have and keep a good relationship with all parties.