Here's What You Missed – Donors with Dementia

image of photo slide showing aging couple from the 1950sAs the population ages, what steps can fundraisers take to help our donors?

May Educational Luncheon:

What happens when you are sitting across from a donor and they do not seem like themselves? You find him repeating the same story in quick succession or she forgets her order at the restaurant you go to on every visit. Your donor may be suffering from dementia. But what does that mean for your role as a fundraiser and your donor’s relationship with your organization?

During the presentation “Stewarding Donors with Dementia” on May 16, 2019, professors Jane Olson and Kelly Stapelman from our sponsor Mt. Mary University, highlighted some visual and verbal warning signs. Many people with dementia build safeguards to remind and prompt themselves. Cueing into these defenses can help fundraisers become aware of donors that may not be showing severe warning signs. And allows those working with these individuals to prepare for what is to come.

The presentation continued with Dr. Jolene Hyppa-Martin, a speech language pathologist at University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), and Rob Hoffmann, senior development officer for UMD’s School of Fine Arts. After Rob encountered an unsettling donor visit, he searched AFP for materials regarding working with donors with dementia, and found none. He collaborated with Dr. Hyppa-Martin to survey fundraisers’ on their experiences and preparedness with working with the aging and demented donors. They presented their findings to our group, as well as, ten steps to working with donors to make them feel valued, appreciated and understood.

Rob and Dr. Hyppa-Martin are convening a symposium of fundraisers on June 12 of this year to discuss what next steps can be taken to adequately protect donors’ integrity and create an ethical background for AFP membership. We are happy that AFP and Planned Giving Council of Southeastern Wisconsin were able to be a part of this discussion.

Have a topic idea for future professional development opportunities?  Contact Julie Cordero from the AFPSEWI Education Committee at