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JoAnn and Bob Glick

In October 2019, JoAnn and Bob Glick of Hunting Valley donated $500,000 to MetroHealth to help expand two programs serving vulnerable youth in Cleveland.

Earlier this month, the Glicks followed up with a $42 million gift – the largest gift in the healthcare system’s history. The funds will establish the JoAnn and Bob Glick Fund for Healthy Communities, as well as create the JoAnn Zlotnick Glick Endowed Fund in Community Health Nursing. In honor of the Glicks’ gift, MetroHealth’s main hospital on West 25th will be named The MetroHealth Glick Center.

In a Dec. 1 report by the Cleveland Jewish News, the $500,000 donated in 2019 – split into two $250,000 gifts – were approached as test gifts to see if MetroHealth was their perfect philanthropic match.

According to Jane Hargraft, chief development officer at The Cleveland Orchestra, and Laura Rayburn, president of the Hospice of the Western Reserve, both in Cleveland, and Megan Fisher, COO at WomenSafe, Inc., in Chardon, test gifts happen but aren’t very common. But, they said every gift to the cause is often treated like a “test” to see if the donor’s mission matches with that of the organization.

“While we don’t use the term ‘test gift,’ we do look at every gift as an opportunity to further engage our donors in our mission, programs and services,” Rayburn said. “When donors are open to conversation, we explore the intersection between our organization’s vision and the donors’ goals. If there is common ground, we introduce donors to our teams and describe the many ways we relieve the suffering of patients and support the grief journey of families.”

Hargraft said, “Every gift is a test for the next. You want everyone that invests in an organization to be treated well, with respect and not be taken for granted.”

Fisher said test gifts are helpful to both the donor and the organization.

“A great way to learn how a nonprofit is run and treats both the people they help and their donors is making an initial, smaller gift,” she stated. “Through this gift, the donor can get a feel for how they treat donors, learn more about different programs, make sure the organization’s reporting are up to date and come in a reasonable time, learn about other engagement opportunities and if there are special events you can support.”

And if a donor approaches an organization explaining their initial gift is going to be a “test,” Hargraft said the developmental team should address their reasoning for it.

“I’d first explain that it is important information to have, and then ask for them to tell me the things they expect to see and what they don’t want to see come from the donation at all,” she noted. “Tell me about all of the things you don’t like and the experiences you had in the past that made you explore an opportunity like this.”

Hargraft added it is key that organizations also know how to “pass the test,” too.

“Tests are only fair when you know what you’re being tested on,” she said. “So, I’d ask what a successful outcome for them would be. And then create a plan to work towards that. Having gifts like this opens up conversations with donors. You get to make sure you’re super transparent, learning what their expectations are and being honest if you can meet them or not.”

And finding that sweet spot where donors can navigate the philanthropic waters and make sure their dollars make a difference is where test gifts shine, Fisher said.

“These gifts are important to allow donors and organizations to become better acquainted and make sure their values align,” she said. “When donors and nonprofits are on the same page, donor retention naturally increases.”

Rayburn stated, “At its core, philanthropy is the intersection of what a donor wants to do with their money that is meaningful to them and the work of the organization. When we successfully find that sweet spot, support usually moves from transactional giving to transformative giving levels which is ultimately the most rewarding place for a donor. This is where they can see exactly how their investment is making a difference in the lives of others, the community and the future.”

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