Renée P. Atkinson
Director, Gift Planning
PGCGP member since 1996
How did you become involved in the area of gift planning?
I was lured away from my job at PNC Bank to work for a private gift administration business. I learned most of what I know about Gift Planning from the late Peter Hemmenway. The business is now a part of PGCalc.
What responsibilities do you have in your current role?
My primary responsibility is to support the mission of Swarthmore College by assisting donors who want to make an impact on the college using their time, talent, treasure and testimony. Planned giving is the tool I use to assist alumni fulfill their philanthropic goals at Swarthmore. I am also responsible for tracking and handling estates that come to the college, compliance for our gift planning program, work with our communications team on planned giving marketing and collaborate with colleagues to handle reunion giving for the 50 plus milestone reunion years.
What part of your job do you find most enjoyable?
Each time I meet with donors, I am reminded why I do this job. It is uplifting to listen to the stories of why they love the college and the reason for their desire to give back to an institution that means so much to them. I’ve met incredible people.
What has been the most impactful gift you have worked on in your career?
I would have to say the most impactful gift I’ve worked on is not the largest, but meant so much to the donor. She is an older alumna of, in her words, “modest means” and was not very connected to the college. However, as she contemplated her mortality she knew she wanted to help a Swarthmore College student. As a recent immigrant to the U.S. when she matriculated, she had a difficult time adjusting to the point of contemplating taking her life. She felt if her six-figure gift could in anyway help a student from experiencing what she did, then it was worth it.
What are you hearing from donors and prospects at this point in time?
Right now, I am hearing a mixture of hope with the lifting of the pandemic and despair with the start of the Russia/Ukraine war. Our donors continue to be generous and are giving through IRAs and Donor Advised Funds. It is prudent of us as gift planners to forge relationships with financial advisors and vice versa. We should all want the same thing – to assist our donor/clients in the way that makes most sense for them.
How do planned gifts make a difference to your organization?
Planned gifts insure the future of the college. I like to say that while outright giving is king, planned giving rules.
How do you benefit from your PGCGP membership?
I’ve benefited from my 18 plus years of membership in the council in many ways. I’ve been able to increase my knowledge about more complex gifts through the quarterly education sessions and Planned Giving Day, I’ve met peers who’ve become mentors and friends and I’ve taken advantage of the council’s mentorship program to become a mentor myself.