PGCPG Member Spotlight
Aruna Pappu, Esq.Associate Director of Planned Giving
American Association for Cancer ResearchPGCGP member since 2018
Tell us how you shifted your career focus to the area of gift planning.
As an attorney, over the years I worked in law and accounting firms helping clients with estate and wealth planning. These were high-net wealth individuals with strong philanthropic intentions. So on the client advisory side I was working with clients on how to achieve their goals and then coordinating with non-profit development people to ensure those intentions could be met. David Toll brought me to Drexel where I transitioned into charitable gift planning. Now I’m on the other side, representing the non-profit to clients/donors and solely focus on the philanthropic component instead of estate planning across the board and I love it, because to me, that is the most meaningful part.
What responsibilities do you have in your current role?
I started at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in June because they, like so many non-profits, didn’t have a dedicated planned giving team and could only work ad hoc on estate gifts. They needed a dedicated planned giving officer to build up a program and proactively develop a pipeline of donors while stewarding donors with legacy gift intentions. As the planned giving lead, I work in tandem with a major gift officer. We have an amazing membership of 47,000 cancer researchers, Ph.D.s, medical doctors, and more across the world who we hope to engage with messaging about the impact of planned gifts on our organization.
What part of your job do you find most enjoyable?
Our organization is working to cure cancer through research, education, and outreach. I am personally connected to and passionate about AACR’s mission because I lost my husband to Stage 4 colorectal cancer. With more testing and research, like AACR is doing, things could have been different. I want to see that mission accomplished so one day families will be spared this kind of pain and loss.
The most rewarding part of what I do is meeting with our members and prospects and listening to what they want to accomplish through philanthropy; learning their stories and how they want to make an impact with their planned gifts. When I hear how they want to help, it’s so reassuring -- heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. I am so honored that they trust me to help them achieve their philanthropic and personal goals.
What are you hearing from donors at this point in time?
Concerns about potential changes in tax laws – the same thing everyone is hearing. They wonder, “should I give now, should I liquidate, should I not?”. The uncertainty is causing a lot of questions. Those who have something in mind are pulling the plug and are scrambling to get things done this month (December) before things might change – so I’ve been busy! Those still in the planning stages are on the fence, waiting to see how their retirement and their heirs could be impacted by tax laws.
How do planned gifts make a difference to your organization?
As all of us in the PG community know, the most significant, substantial, and impactful gifts are planned gifts. The positive and sometimes life-changing effects can be far reaching. Planned gifts = greater funding = more research = cures.
How do you benefit from your PGCGP membership?
I benefit in so many ways, professionally and personally. I can email or pick up the phone and call another member for insight or just talk shop. It’s so nice to have a personal network; there’s a real camaraderie. In PGCGP you can tap leaders who’ve worked in this philanthropic space for years. They are beacons of knowledge and great mentors. It’s a great group where you can get help and also become part of a greater collective of people you can also call friends. It’s a cross section of folks at this interesting juncture of planned giving and offers a nice meeting place for all these different areas – law, tax, non-profit - to come together.