Nonprofit Management Faculty Highlight: Mohammad Zaidi

In a twenty-five year career, Mohammad Zaidi has held fundraising positions in high-profile organizations, including the National Audubon Society, The New York Public Library, and Planned Parenthood. He is currently the Director of Gift Planning and Special Campaigns with the American Civil Liberties Union. Now, he’s taking his experience to the Nonprofit Management program, where he teaches Introduction to Planned Giving. He answered questions on his expertise and enthusiasm by email:

Tell us more about what you do with planned giving in your current job?

Because individuals on average hold only about 2% of their wealth in cash, nonprofits must be able to secure gifts of non-cash assets to maximize their resources. Planned giving provides us with the tools to do that, through both current gifts and future gifts such as bequests. The fact is that our donors face a variety of issues in managing their illiquid assets, and engaging them in those planning conversations allows us to fulfill the best promise of philanthropy.

What ethical issues arise with planned giving?

Occasionally, potential disputes will arise with the estates of our donors. Working through these with executors and family members are some of the toughest issues we face. They involve practical matters like legal procedures and financial accounting for estates, as well as balancing broader values like donor intent, the nonprofit’s reputation, and our fiduciary responsibility to collect assets that the organization is entitled to receive.

What are some of the challenges working on major gifts with the nonprofits you’ve worked for like ACLU, Planned Parenthood, etc.?

Donors with the wealth to make major gifts often have complex assets and ownership structures, and multiple considerations that go into their philanthropic decisions. Usually, a transformational gift must work on many levels at the same time to be the right fit for the donor. Being a good partner means asking good questions, actively listening, and asking more good questions until we understand our donor.

What subjects in the NOPM field are you excited to take on and discuss with your students?

Personal solicitation of major donors is one of the highest—and most desirable and marketable—skills we can have as nonprofit leaders. Planned giving expertise extends that dynamic even further. Rising to that challenge is exciting, for both my students and me.

Learn more about the Master of Science in Nonprofit Management program at Columbia University.