“Assume nothing” is a common mantra among journalists. It also applies to Planned Giving.

Assumptions – particularly about who constitutes a strong potential Planned Giving prospect – can stand in the way of real progress.

I was reminded of this lesson when I was working with a liberal arts college that was ramping up its Planned Giving program. Like many organizations, it assumed that its effort would focus primarily on engaging with its wealthiest alumni.

But they were thinking too small.

Those wealthy alumni were certainly worth reaching – but they represented only a sliver of the college’s target audience.

We identified other potential prospects based on a range of factors. Then we started doing outreach, including a mailer that included a checkbox if the recipient was interested in learning more about planned gifts.

One of our responses came from an alumnus who we’d come to learn didn’t fit the stereotype of a potential big donor. He was single, lived in a modest apartment and drove an old, reliable car.

He had spent his whole career – 37 years, if I recall — delivering mail for the U.S. Postal Service.

Now in his retirement, he had swapped out his Postal Service blues for blue jeans and flannel shirts.

He had checked our box. And we were quick to follow up.

The fundraising team got to know him better. We talked about how a potential gift might be used to improve the campus or provide opportunities for low-income students. He came back to visit campus, spending several hours reminiscing about a place that clearly still held a special place in his heart.

The average planned gift in the United States is $35,000. In his will, this unassuming postal worker donated $750,000 to the college.

That’s meaningful money to any organization. To a small liberal arts college, it proved to be a gift that made a real difference to its financial future.

Your best donors may not be your richest donors. They may just be the ones who care most deeply about your organization, your mission, and your work.

Don’t assume otherwise.