Kitchen Drawer Philanthropists

Female Fundraiser With Donor Discussing Stock Investments

A conversation with Viken Mikaelian and Camilyn Leone

Viken: Tell me about how you were introduced to planned giving and what you learned about fundraising and stewardship?

Camilyn: My first job in planned giving was for the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. I was hired to create a planned giving program after a very successful major gift officer took another job. She was successful because she was found ways for ordinary people to become philanthropists.

As a newbie, and an attorney, I had a lot to learn. My immediate reaction to my new job was to organize everything, document everything, create systems for recording planned gifts, draft new gift agreements, and detailed legal information about all the kinds of planned giving vehicles. Luckily, I had a wise supervisor, Jessica White. She let me do all this legal stuff, but only after I had met the donors who had made planned gifts.

And she told me to call Frank.

Frank was in his 80s when I first met him. He was a retired engineer. He loved trains. The Children’s Museum had the best model train exhibit, collection and even a full size steam engine in the basement. He had made modest annual gifts every year and had a small charitable gift annuity that he had funded with cash as well. I went to visit him at his ranch home.

We sat down at the kitchen table. He offered me a chilled Coke in a glass bottle. He asked me why I had taken the job at the museum. I told him that I cared about philanthropy and thought working at the museum would be a great way to help the community and children. I remember him nodding in agreement. Then, I asked him why he made gifts to the museum.

He said that he loved trains and the exhibits at the museum reminded him of being a kid. When he visited the museum, he loved seeing little kids’ eye light up when they watched the trains go around the miniature village. That was my “ah ha” fundraising moment.

“Would you like to make a major gift to support the train exhibit?”

“Well, I’m on a fixed income now. I like to give but I can’t do much.”

“You mentioned that you work for Cummins for many years, did you ever receive stocks as part of your pay or benefits?

“Yes, I’ve got stock certificates in my kitchen drawer.”

“Did you know that you can make a charitable gift with those?”

“Can I use them to get another charitable gift annuity?


I visited Frank many times while I worked for the Children’s’ Museum. Each time I saw him, we sat in the kitchen, talked about the museum. Then, he would reach over and open that kitchen drawer and pull out a beautifully engraved stock certificate. I would carefully carry this gift back to the museum and turn it into a charitable gift annuity. What started as stewardship usually ended with another gift of stock.

I still remember his eyes lighting up when he talked about trains and how much he loved seeing children experience the same wonder.

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