There’s a misconception that planned giving is complicated and only for large nonprofits. Ligia Peña, M.Sc., CFRE recently joined us for a webinar in which she demystified the world of planned giving for small shops.

In case you missed it, you can watch the replay here.

Full Transcript:

Steven: Well, Ligia, my watch just struck 1:00. You want to go ahead and get started for real?

Ligia: Let’s do this.

Steven: All right. Cool. Well, good afternoon everyone if you’re on the East Coast and good morning if you’re on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for joining us for today’s webinar, “Launching a Planned Giving Program for Your Small Shop.” My name is Steven Shattuck and I’m the VP of Marketing here at Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion.

Just some housekeeping items before we begin, I just want to let everyone know that we are recording this presentation. I’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides to you via email later on this afternoon. So, if you have to leave early or perhaps you want to review the content later on or share it with a friend or team member, you’ll be able to do that. So, just look for an email from me later on this afternoon.

As you’re listening today, please feel free to chat in any questions or comments throughout the presentation. I’ll see those and our guests will see those. We’re going to save some time at the end for just as many questions as we can answer. So, don’t be shy about that. Please send in your comments, your questions throughout the next hour or so.

You can follow along on Twitter with us with the #Bloomerang and our username is @BloomerangTech. We’d love to see your tweets. If you’re listening today via your computer, if you have any trouble with the audio, dial in by phone. Usually phone is better quality. If you can do that, just check the email from ReadyTalk that was sent out around noon today. It should have a phone number that you can dial into.

Just in case this is your first webinar with us, I just want to say a special welcome to you. We do these webinars just about every Thursday, but if you’re also new to Bloomerang, Bloomerang is a donor management software provider. We have some great donor management software.

If you’re interested in that or want to learn more about us, you can do that, just check out our website. You can even download a short video demo, don’t even have to talk to a salesperson if you don’t want to. So, check us out if you’re interested in that. We’d love to talk to you afterwards.

So, I want to go ahead and introduce today’s guest. I am so excited to have Ligia Pena here with us. Ligia, how’s it going? Thanks for being here.

Ligia: It’s going great. Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Steven: So, we met, I think, what was it, 13 months ago at AFP and I got a big hug from you and we’ve been buddies ever since. I’m super excited for you to be doing a webinar. We’ve been talking about this for a while. It’s good to have you here.

Just in case you guys don’t know her, someone you should know. She is actually the Global Legacy Manager over at Greenpeace International — new job for her. I think actually that’s the most impressive title of anyone we’ve ever had on our webinars, so awesome for you.

She’s been working with nonprofits for over 14 years, specializing in education, mental health, environments and at risk youth to international NGOs. She’s also the author of the small shop fundraising chapter in the second volume of excellence in fundraising. So, check that out if you don’t have a copy of that.

She’s also very active in the Canadian nonprofit sector specifically. She’s the co-chair of the board of directors of Girls Action Foundation. She also serves on several committees at AFP International. For the last five years, she’s served on the Quebec chapter of AFP. She’s also a member in good standing of AFP and the CAGP.

So, Ligia, I’m not going to take any more time away from you. I’m excited for you to get us started with planned giving. So, take it away, my friend.

Ligia: Thank you so much, Steven. Welcome, everybody.

Just a little disclaimer, you’re probably wondering, what is a big shop fundraiser doing talking about small shop fundraising? Well, I’ve only been in this position at Greenpeace for three weeks. But before, I was a small shop fundraiser. I know exactly what you are all going through. So, that’s my little disclaimer.

So, welcome. Thank you for taking part in this important webinar. I say important because as small shop fundraisers, I know that we are pulled in all kinds of direction and always asked to do more with less and trying to raise more money. Planned giving is always something that we leave off at the end to do when we’re going to have time. At the end of the day, we don’t have time.

What I’ll be talking about are little things you could do and how to get started. Before we get started on talking about establishing a planned giving program for your small shop, let’s do a little pop quiz. So, you should have the ability to answer these questions. A popup, I believe, comes up.

The first quiz — we’ll be answering these as we go along and I’ll be giving you the answers — the definition of planned giving is making a gift with the donor in the right way at the right time with the right purpose. Is that true or false? Yes or no?

The answers are coming in really fast. It’s great. So, right now there are about 249 people on this webinar, and we’ve got almost everybody answering. Here’s the funny thing. The funny thing is we’ve all said and repeated many times the good gift is the right person, right donor, right time, etc., right? In this case, the answer is false.

Why? Well, because a planned gift really is donor-driven in the sense that they’re the ones that will make the gift when they are ready. It doesn’t always have everything to do with you asking the right person at the right time and all of that. So, all you can do as a planned giving professional or as a fundraiser is let donors know that what ways that they can give to the organization. But we’ll go into a bit more detail about that throughout the presentation.

So, ready for the second one? Let’s go for the second question. Here we go. From the list below, pick out the correct statement about planned giving. What is the motivation for a donor to give a planned gift? Is it motivation? Is it planned giving always made after the person’s death or are bequests by will the most common? What say you? A few more seconds to answer this.

Those of you who said bequests are most common are completely right. Absolutely. Motivation meaning tax or financial benefits are not at all a reason to make . . . it’s not the number one reason why people make a gift, a planned gift. Not all planned gifts are realized after the person’s death. So, we’ll talk a little bit about that later on. So, good job everyone. I’d say out of 206 responses, 164 said that bequests is the best answer.

All right. Next question, before starting your planned giving program, a rule of thumb is that you need a minimum of 100 annual donors, experience soliciting major gifts or a lawyer and accountant on your board? What do you think?

This is interesting. All done with the answers? The answer that the majority of you have responded is the second one, experience soliciting major gifts. I’m sorry to tell you that is not quite the case. The number one answer is having 100 annual donors and 1,000 age 50+, of course, that number can vary from one organization to the next. But the reason being is that it’s really about passion and commitment to the cause.

A donor leaving a gift in their will or spending up to their life insurance is really about how they feel towards your organization. If you don’t have critical mass of donors who have been giving annually and are of a certain age, then whether you have experience soliciting major gifts or you have an accountant or lawyer on your board have absolutely no value whatsoever. So, how’s that for interesting?

Next question, which one of the following goals would not make sense for year one in establishing your planned giving program? Creating a case for support, develop basic policies and procedures, solicit board for their own planned gift, raise $100,000 in new planned gifts, or develop it and implement a marketing plan? What would not make sense as a goal for your first year? What do you say?

I think this is pretty much a given. Everybody is saying raising $100,000 planned gift. So, that makes absolute sense because we all know that the majority of planned gifts will be realized years after the time that you solicit it, so, to say that you’re going to be able to raise $100,000 this year after establishing your planned giving program makes no sense. You don’t know when the money is going to come in. It can take years before they come in. So, that’s very good. You guys are doing really well. That’s amazing.

All right. Next question. The slides are not moving. Ah, here we go. So, when it comes to planned giving, is it important that . . . oh dear, the question got cut off here. When it comes to planned giving, it’s important that your behind the scenes administrative systems are in order. Pick out the most important element that should be in place. So, basically, your back of the house has to be setup and in order.

So, the answers are already coming in. That’s great. The results are coming in. This is different. You’re seeing answers where we are. So, doing a tickler system, making sure gifts received are acknowledged, yes. That’s good. So, you guys got the answers. There you go. The number one answer is ensuring that gifts are received and acknowledged on time. That goes for everything in fundraising anyway, right? This is nothing new.

All right. Next question, so, this is a long one. Your organization might consider partnering with a local community foundation so you can have an endowment fund. We often talk about planned giving and endowment funds. We’ll talk about this a little bit in greater detail later on. All community foundations share these features: they’re public charitable organizations, they hold permanent endowment funds, they support community organizations within a defined geographic area and can legally hold endowment funds for other registered charities. Is that true or false? What do you say?

True. Exactly. All right. Good job, everybody. Yes. That is true. If in your organization you decide that you want to establish an endowment fund but it’s too much to manage in your own organization, which is sometimes the case in a small shop, then partnering with a local community foundation is the best idea.

They’ll manage it on your behalf and usually because they have a lot of bulk business, then they can get better administrative fees for the investments than if you were to go do it on your own. There are some advantages to that. There can be some disadvantages. It’s up to you to assess that, do that assessment with your community foundation.

All right. That was our quiz. I hope it wasn’t too difficult. You guys did really great. I’m very pleased. It’s nice to see that you guys really understand what we’re talking about.

So, here are the definitions of planned giving. According to the AFP dictionary, which if you’re a member of AFP, you can download it in the resources area of the AFP website. It says it’s a systematic effort to identify and cultivate a person for the purpose of generating a major gift that is structured and that is integrated, that integrates soundly personal, financial and estate planning concepts, with the prospect’s plans for lifetime or testamentary giving. A planned gift has tax implications and is often submitted through legal instruments such as a will or a trust. Planned gifts are more than just a will.

The CAGP, which is the Canadian Association of Gift Planners — I’m sure in the US, there would be also an equivalent of a professional association that specializes in gift planning — gift planning is the donor-centered process of planning charitable gifts, whether current or future gifts, that meet philanthropic goals and balances personal, family and tax consideration.

Between the two, I personally prefer the CAGP definition. But what does that mean? Is it not super-technical and dry and heavy? Don’t worry. Basically, at the end of the day, a planned gift is just another vehicle for donors to contribute to your organization. Their characteristics are that they’re mostly, not all, but mostly future gifts.

So, they may not be realized right away and that’s why sometimes accounting for them and including them in your budget can be a bit challenging, although we do tend to include gifts of stock as a planned gift. So, that usually is realized right away.

Other characteristics of a planned gift is they’re usually from assets as opposed to revenue. So, as opposed to the annual gift or monthly giving or even a major gift, there usually is immediate cash that is doled out on the spot. Most planned gifts are from assets, assets that the donor holds and has accumulated.

They are usually also very highly personal because it’s part . . . seeing as it comes from assets, that means that the donor has to evaluate what they are worth, what they have at their disposal in terms of current and future assets. So, that’s why going back to that initial question at the beginning of the quiz, they’re very donor-driven. They need to do that analysis internally. It’s less spontaneous than a one-time gift or a monthly gift.

It’s donor driven in timing and type. So, the type of planned gift they will make will depend on their own current personal age that they are in their life. So, if they’re young, it can be a life insurance gift. If they’re older, it could be an annuity or a bequest. At the time, where they are in their life in terms of financially but also what’s going through their life. So, there are these things to consider.

Also, they can be revocable. There’s this misconception that planned gifts are irrevocable, but that is not the case. For instance – and I’ll give a very honest example of my own – I had put an organization in my will when I first did this years ago. Then I felt that they weren’t respecting me as a donor. It just really left a really bad taste in my mouth after a few things that happened with that organization and I removed them. So, that means that you have to be very careful how you treat your planned giving donors so as to make sure that you can stay in their good graces.

So, what happens next? So, what are the different planned giving vehicles? So, you’ve all heard of bequest. You’ve got a specific bequest as an option. So, donors can make a specific bequest in their will, say they will give you $5,000 out of their assets when they pass away.

It could also be residual or contingent. So, residual would be a percentage of whatever is left over after they’ve paid all their bills and their taxes and that specific requests have been paid out, whatever is residual from their assets is what you would get.

Contingent could be also, and this has happened to be when I was working for an NGO years ago. It could be contingent on someone else passing. So, for instance, the donor can say, “I bequeath my entire estate to my ex-spouse,” but in order for the organization to receive it, you have to wait until the spouse passes away. That’s a contingency one.

So, then you’ve got life insurance gifts. Sorry, let me go back to bequests. What’s important to know about bequests is that often times the target donors will be your older donors. If you have information about the age of your donors and your database, I know in the US, it’s a lot easier to have that information, access your information for US charities, it’s a lot easier and better.

In Canada, we have very, very strict piracy laws and so unless a donor gives us their year of birth or if the organization asks the donors, then it’s really impossible for us to know the age of them at all. There’s an advantage for you fundraisers out in the US.

Life insurance is mostly usually targeted to younger donors. You can also have older donors making a gift through a life insurance, but if it’s a new life insurance, because premiums will be cheaper when you’re younger, that is the target age. Sometimes around the age of 35-55. So, different ways that someone could give a gift of life insurance could be through a transfer of property.

So, a transfer of ownership. So, a donor has a life insurance policy and it’s paid off, they can then transfer the ownership to your organization. They can also give you an existing policy, so they’re probably still paying premiums on it. They can pass it on to you as well.

The last one would be the donation of a new policy. They decide to take out a life insurance on themselves and designate it to your organization as the owner and the recipient of the benefit, of the life insurance. So, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. There are a lot of considerations in there based on the company that they ask for and the state of health. Those are really easy, simple, planned gift vehicles.

Now, the next part. So, the other tools could also be charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts, ecological gifts, strip bonds, residual interest, RRSP, RRIFs — that’s in Canada. I know there’s an equivalent in the US, basically retirement plans, etc. So, we’re not going to go into the details of those because those are much more complicated.

As a small shop fundraiser, you don’t need to know everything. Perhaps the biggest advice I can give you when it comes to setting up a planned giving program is you do not need to be a financial expert. You don’t need to be an accounting expert. You just need to understand the language. So, take that pressure off of you and don’t start feeling like you need to start offering all of this.

All of the organizations I’ve worked at that were small shops and we setup a planned giving program, we only started with bequests. The reason being is it’s the easiest one. Why would you want to make it more difficult for yourself? Start with bequests and then grow as you move forward, as you start developing your own knowledge of planned giving and also have more resources at your disposal.

So, what happens now? You have all of this. You’re kind of freaking out right now. Take a deep breath and we’re going to get started.

Ask yourself before launching into planned giving, should every organization setup a planned giving program? Well, yes and no. So, the reason why I say yes and no is you have to think, if you’re working for an organization that is trying to address a particular problem that will take a long time to solve, let’s say, you’re trying to eradicate poverty. This is not something that’s short-term. This is long-term. If that is the case, then yes, establishing a planned giving program makes sense because of the long term perspective of your organization.

But if you’re working in an organization that has a short-term vision of the problem, so a specific problem it’s addressing and you’re looking at this issue being sorted and resolved in a defined period of time, then maybe it’s not worth it. So, you want to consider this. I would say perhaps a majority of organizations actually do have a long term vision or addressing issues that are long term. So, then yes, it would make sense.

So, when is it time to start? Yesterday was the right time to start, I would say. The reason being is that we’ve been talking and everybody talks about the incredible wealth transfer that will happen in the next 10 to 20 years. Therefore, you can’t wait 10 years to setup your planned giving program because it can take up to 5 to 10 years for some of the gifts to start coming in. So, if you wait 5 or 10 years to get it started, it’s going to take another 5 or 10 years before it starts giving you the fruit of your labor. By then it might be too late. So, let’s start now.

We talked a little bit before about planned giving versus endowment program. What’s the difference? Well, the planned giving program has these vehicles that we talked about before, so, the bequests, life insurance, annuities, etc. An endowment program or an endowment fund, most of the time endowment funds are funded by planned giving products, by planned giving gifts that were donated, but they can also be funded with major gifts. It really depends.

Your organization might choose — and this is something to consider — you might choose to say, “For all planned gifts that come in, we will put them all into an endowment fund.” So, that could be one of your key selling points when you talk to donors about making a gift in their will, for instance. You can tell them, “We’re going to take the money, but we’re not all going to spend it right away. We’re going to invest it into an endowment fund, which will give us that stability that you can work with for years to come.”

Or you can decide to endow a portion of the gift. So, in discussion with senior management, in your board, in your gift acceptance policy, you might want to say that 80% of all gifts in the will will be endowed and the other 20% will go towards your annual plan, towards your annual campaign.

That is a decision that you have to have. That’s a conversation you need to have with your board and your senior management to decide and see if an endowment fund is something that is necessary and would help your organization.

Then what happens? You’ve been green lighted. The senior management is on board. All your board members are on board. What happens now? How do you get started? So, the first thing to think is that planned giving is like any other fundraising program. It requires timing. It requires thought. It requires strategy and it requires marketing.

So, first point perhaps you might want to establish a gift planning committee or an endowment committee or a separate within your board. You’ll want to draft policies and guidelines for what type of planned gifts will you be soliciting? So, if all you can do are bequests, then that’s what you want to stick to. What is the criteria for accepting gifts? What is the administration behind the gift? What kind of recognition do you want to offer?

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Oh my gosh, this is a lot of work and this is too much.” Here’s a news flash. A lot of other organizations are doing this. They already have their policies. The best way to start is to do some research. Reach out to other organizations. A lot of the times, a lot of the tools that I’ve developed were inspired by other organizations, what they had in place. You’d be surprised how many professionals will be happy to share their policies, their forms, all of their back of the house stuff. They’ll be happy to share that with you.

Then you just adapt it based on your own needs. So, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You don’t have to start from scratch. There are plenty of examples out there. Just Google all these things and you will find them and if not, just recount to your fundraising colleagues in other shops that have planned giving programs already established and get that from them.

If you do decide to have a gift planning committee, you’ll have to make sure that they approve all these policies and all these procedures. Then more forward. Then you want to have your terms of reference and prepare sample bequest language to give to donors.

You might need some funding for your program because obviously you will need some funding. So, finding a small budget to do planned giving . . . so, contrary to popular belief, you will have donors think that when a bequest comes in, they’ll think, “Oh my gosh, this is free money. We didn’t do anything about it.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. It does require work and it does require some investment. Does it cost as much as setting up a direct mail plan? Absolutely not. But it does require time and money.

Of course, the biggest element is a comprehensive marketing. So, you can start integrating planned gifts. Well, let’s just say very specifically, you can start integrating this into your overall fundraising plan and your marketing plan. And creating in-house literature of a brochure or a handout. Really, you don’t need to go and spend a whole lot of money. Just print it out, make it nice and pretty and you’re off to the races.

So, what if you don’t meet these criteria? We mentioned before that ideally in the perfect world, you’d want to have approximately 100 annual donors and a good base of committed donors. Now, some people might not agree with that amount. Some people might think that it’s too much or it should be more. Listen, really at the end of the day, what I would say to you is if you have a bulk of donors who have been giving to your organization for several years and you’ve got a monthly giving program, you’ve got a basis to start.

You don’t need to wait until you have 1,000 donors or even 100 donors. As long as you have donors who have been committed to your cause, who continually give and it doesn’t have to be a very large amount of dollars. It can be just someone that gives $25 on an annual basis or someone that makes a $10 monthly gift and has been doing that for years and years. They are prime prospects. Why? Because they are committed to your cause. It’s all about commitment and dedication to your organization than anything else.

A perfect example that I like to tell people is when I was managing the major gifts and planned giving program for an NGO years ago, I received a $500,000 bequest. This was 100% of this woman’s estate. So, she had nobody. She never married. She didn’t have children. She bequeathed 100% of her estate to the organization, which came out to a little over $500,000. When I looked at her donation history, she had made maybe three or four donations ranging from $25 to $50 and that was it.

For all intents and purposes, she didn’t stand out as someone who would have been a typical bequest prospect. But she clearly was touched by the organization and really was committed to doing that, to making a bequest. So, basically what I’m saying is every donor can be a bequest prospect. So, never underestimate the power of someone’s commitment to your organization.

How will you fund it? Well, it really should be integrated in everything else. It should not be something that is done on the side of, “We’ll give it a push for one month and then let it lie.” It’s something that should be integrated completely in your fundraising plan.

What you’ll want to figure out is what kind of marketing materials do you need to develop? Is it a brochure? Is it a new newsletter? If you’re not doing a newsletter, then maybe a newsletter could be something, even just writing articles in your newsletter. It could buck slips that you can include in your direct mail.

How do you recognize these gifts? I know I’m jumping forward a lot because now you’re thinking, “I still haven’t setup my plan. How am I going to recognize them? Well, just very quickly, when you’ve got bequests, when they’re realized, obviously it’s the total amount of the gift that you account for and the recognition should be as with any recognition you would give to any other donor. You might want to consider establishing a heritage society or special . . . you probably want to consider establishing a special group or a special recognition club for your planned giving donors when they commit to your organization but also when the gift is realized.

When you’ve got bequest expectancy, so now you’re rolling. You started getting donors being interested in making bequests, then what you can count in your fundraising reporting is the number of expectancies and then what your evaluation of what it could be, okay?

Something that some fundraisers do is when you’ve got an expectancy, a lot of people, what they’ll do, a lot of fundraisers will ask the donor to provide a copy of their will or maybe even just the one page of the will that states that they are making a bequest to your organization.

Here’s the reason why. This is an example from one of my colleagues. His organization received a bequest to his organization but the way the organization’s name was written was the name of the organization and then sort of a chapter of the city where they were in. What happens is that there is no chapter in that city where the donor was in.

They had to go back to the lawyer. Now the lawyer had to demonstrate to the court that the intent of the donor was to make a gift to that organization, even if the way the name was written was incorrect, which essentially would make that bequest null and void. So, what that does is obviously it delays the disbursement and it makes it a lot more complicated. So, you want to make sure that your donors have written the name of the organization properly and that their intent is if they decide to designate it to a specific gift, it is for a program that you actually do.

Remember how I mentioned that $500,000 gift before to the NGO? Well, the part of the story that I didn’t tell you is that unfortunately, we weren’t able to keep it because she designated it to a program that the organization never managed, never did ever. It wasn’t even in its mission. So, the organization couldn’t keep the gift.

Unfortunately, I had to then turn around and try to find another organization with a similar vocation but that had a program specific to what her demands were. So, we had to give the gift away of nearly $600,000 — $584,000. It broke our hearts, but we needed to respect that.

So, I’m just seeing a few questions here. Sorry, I’ve been going on and on and on and I think I’ve missed a few questions. One question that’s being asked is how do I feel about cold calling a donor base about planned giving?

Well, here’s the thing. If they’re already your donors, it’s not really a cold call now is it? I would say absolutely. If you’ve identified them as a potential planned gift donor, then yes. So, here’s a trick of the trade. This is what I did when I started working at the organization I was at before. It was a small school for deaf kids. I was the director of development in a one-person development department. So, I was alone.

I wanted to establish a planned giving program, but I didn’t know my donors. So, as a rule, I always call donors to say thank you, all donors, regardless of the amount, even if they made a $5 gift. I pick up the phone and I call them and I write a handwritten thank you card. That’s just how I am. Not everybody wants to do that. It’s very time consuming, but that’s how I roll.

What that helped me do is identify who were my bequest prospects. I don’t mean to offend anybody, but I’m just telling you I’m going to be really honest, if they picked up the phone in the middle of the afternoon and their voice was a little shaky and they were happy to hear from me and kept me on the phone for a long time because they wanted to tell me their story, then they were a prospect because I figured they’re not working. They’re at home in the afternoon. Someone who’s older sometimes feels isolated and they welcome the call and so they were my prospects. That’s how I built a long list of bequest prospects.

So, really if they are already giving to your organization, it’s not a cold call. So, yeah, if you have a list of people that you think would be a good prospect, pick up the phone and say, “Hey.” Obviously you don’t start asking them right away, but you start the conversation and then try to see if you can go and see them, go meet with them.

That’s the advantage that we have as small shop fundraisers. Usually we’re not dealing with thousands and thousands and thousands of donors. We tend to know our donors a lot better because it’s small. You see their donations come in. So, that’s an advantage that we have, that we can pick up the phone and say, “Hey, can we come and talk to you about this?” There you go.

Another tool to get started is, and I know I’m jumping a little bit, but this question sort of started this whole train of thought here, is just a survey. When was the last time you did a donor survey? Send out a survey, ten questions, really short and simple. I have a few samples to share. You want to start the first few questions, which are warmer questions, warm them up to the organization and then address the subject of, “Did you know that you can leave a gift in your will? Would you like to receive more information about leaving a gift in your will to XYZ organization?”

Doing a survey is a very good way to gauge the potential that you have. Of course, the important part of it is not only sending out the survey, but having the follow through afterwards. So, be ready before you mail it out with all the tools, all the information you need to send out to your donors after they respond to your survey. So, that’s another really easy, quick way to do it.

The survey, you can just add it on to your direct mail. You don’t have to do a special mailing, which will cost you more money, but you can include it in your fall appeal. So, you’re killing two birds with one stone and there you go.

Before I forget to finish this slide, how can a consultant help? So, you’re alone in your shop and you’re trying to keep your head above water and you haven’t slept in three months and you’re really stressed because there’s probably another event that’s being thrown on your plate that the board wants because it’s the best thing ever and it’s the greatest idea they’ve ever had in their life, and your goal is to setup a planned giving program.

So, can a consultant help you? Absolutely. What they can do is do an initial presentation to the board to present what the potential of a gift planning program has with your organization. Is this something you can do? Of course. But you know how sometimes boards are. They need to hear it from an external source. Sorry if I’m being facetious, but it’s the truth. We’ve all been there, right?

They can also provide a seminar to acquaint board members about the different giving instruments. They can provide training. So, if you don’t feel like you have the knowledge and the skills, then they can provide you a little bit of training and get you going. They can provide strategic advice on the program design and gifts. They can support you with donors. So, sort of accompany you at first until you get warmed up and you feel more comfortable with it. They can help you draft and review your marketing material.

If this is something that could be feasible and you can afford, even if it’s a very small contract, just to help you get off the ground, I would say invest in that. You’ve got nothing to lose. So, consider it if you’re feeling like doing all of this is overwhelming for you.

Let me see. I see a couple of questions. I want to try to address them now. So, “When is it appropriate to use an outside source for planned gift marketing?” So, I think, Debbie, what you’re referring to is probably using a consultant or a writer that would develop your planned giving marketing. Am I understanding your question properly? If you can just write your answer in the chat box, I want to make sure I answer your question properly. I’ll come back to your question after you’ve confirmed if my understanding was right.

“What are questions we should ask the board for gift planning programs?” I’m not sure I understand what questions you would you be asking your board about whether you should be establishing your program? Is that what you’re asking, Don? I’m not sure if I’m understanding that question very well.

Okay. So, actually your job as the fundraiser in the organization coming to the board to get, I guess, for lack of a better term, getting permission to setup a planned giving program, but that’s not the right term obviously, is you want to educate them. You want to ask them questions. You want to educate them about what the potential is. So, what I would say to you is come prepared with numbers.

We all know that board members are concerned with numbers. What is the opportunity cost of establishing a gift planning program? You want to be able to come and say I did a database analysis and my analysis demonstrates that 70% of our donors are over the age of 55. All of these are potentials for a bequest for a gift in their will. If you were to get, let’s say, 5% of x-number of donors that make a gift, an average gift in their will of $20,000, this is the potential that this can have.

It all comes down to the numbers. So, you want to do some projections in that way and then turn around and say, “This is the investment we would need to do. If you need training, what is the training you need to get and how much is that going to cost. How much is it going to cost to do your marketing, etc. How does all of this integrate in your overall fundraising program? Again, don’t forget, you want to come back to having a fully integrated fundraising program, which includes annual gifts, major gifts and planned gifts. So, it’s all about having a very robust, complete fundraising program.

When you sell that to your board, then if you come with solutions as opposed to asking them for solutions, you will not only reinforce your own credibility as a fundraising professional, but they will buy in a lot better and a lot faster.

Let me just quickly look at some of the questions. Quickly, “A local attorney has offered to speak at a lunch about planned giving options. Is that a successful method? Do people really respond to those invitations?”

Thank you for the question, Linda. Yes, actually a lot of organizations do that. An organization I give to monthly organizes luncheons or even like the one-hour session. So, the idea is to really make it time efficient but informative and what they’ll do is they’ll invite a lawyer or a notary, whatever the case is where you are located. The person will do a presentation, demystify gifts and will, etc. That’s part of the service that the charity will offer their donors. Donors respond to that.

But what you need to consider is that it’s successful when you have started talking about planned giving, when you started talking about bequests. So, you can’t just do it cold and say, “Hey, we’re inviting you to a will seminar.” You want to start talking about this. Let’s take a few steps back first.

You want to start writing articles in your newsletter. You want to start changing your donation coupon saying, “Did you know you can make a gift in your will? Would you like to receive more information?” So, start a lot of that sort of passive information that you’re sending out. Remember, you need repeat a message at least seven times before people actually understand it and register it.

So, start communicating that kind of information and then once you’ve identified your prospect, then yes, inviting them to a luncheon or a tea, something I’m very pro, I’m very supportive of the idea is a little afternoon tea where people can get together, have tea, little sandwiches and then have a presentation by a professional.

So, that’s how it works. Then if the donor wants to get together with the lawyer, then they can make an appointment and then it goes on from there. So, that is a very good way of giving that option to your donors.

Who are your prospects? We kind of touched on this already. Your donors who are over the age of 50, if you’re talking about bequests, you want to go get them, try to identify the ones that are over the age of 50. People who have donated annually for a long time or even donors who give monthly, they’re also very good prospects. So, you want to make sure that they know about this.

I would even go on to say reach out to your current board members. They’re prime prospects. They are committed to your cause. They’re volunteering and they would be a good group of people that you can start with. If they’re not giving right now annually, then this is a good way for them to make a significant gift. That could be their contribution to the organization. Talk to your past board members and your founders and previous executive directors. They’re also very good prospects.

Older donors, mid-level donors and donors who make small but repeated gifts, those are all great, great prospects. I’m sure if you look within your database you’ve been seeing over the past few years giving regularly, they will be the ones that will jump on board.

Marketing obviously is key. We’ve touched on this. So, the four components of a good marketing program are continuity, consistency, repetition. By continuity we’re talking about it shows the recipient that each individual marketing effort is part of a whole. So, you want your planned giving . . . okay, I’m going to stick to just bequests. You want your bequest marketing to be part of an overall marketing plan within your organization. You don’t want it to be something as a one-off. It has to be integrated, like your fundraising plan.

You want to be consistent. The message should be consistent visually and in terms of content. Use the same language and for heaven’s sakes, simple, simple language is important. Also, the same look, always be consistent because people will retain that a lot more.

Repetition, once the process of marketing has begun, it must be repeated over time. Like I said before, a person needs to hear the message seven times in order to register. And the cumulative effect, so, no single marketing effort is responsible for causing an act or develop a positive impression. So, it’s all the pieces put together. It has to be consistent. Marketing must be done frequently.

So, keep in mind though, you’re probably freaking out a little bit right now and I really don’t want you to freak out. Don’t take all this that I’ve been telling you as you have to do everything. These are suggestions. You have to decide what you can do and what you want to do with the resources you have at your disposal. If all you can do for the time being is write an article in your organization newsletter, then that’s all you need to do. That’s all you want to do. Don’t try to be everything to everybody because then you’re just going to A, drive yourself absolutely bananas and you’re not going to have the results that you want.

Here’s something very quickly. I see my goodness, it’s already 1:55 — I only have five minutes left. I need an entire day for this. Ten Commandments of Planned Giving Marketing. I did not come up with it. I cannot take credit for this. This is Phyllis Freedman, someone I used to read a lot of her blogs. She doesn’t seem to be blogging all that much.

But here are the Ten Commandments to Planned Giving Marketing. So, you have to rethink what the age of 60, 70, 80. So, people are living much longer than they used to. So, you have to think about how they like to be communicated.

You have to use serif fonts. So, what is serif font? This font you’re reading in my slides? That’s serif. Why? Because it’s easier to the eye, okay? When you’re talking about an older population, sometimes their vision is starting to decrease and this is a lot easier for them to read. You also don’t want to reverse your white type out of color. You want to use plain English. Do not get technical. Focus on everything that is emotional.

You want to design for skimmers. People, they’re not going to read a long, long document. The fundamental principles of direct marketing apply to this.

You have to address unspoken donor objections inside your copy. Why wouldn’t someone want to give? Think about possible objections and how can you address them in your copy. Provide suggested bequest language. Again, you will find tons of samples online of something like this. Make the materials your own, so your materials should reflect your organizational culture and the feel that you want to project.

Use testimonials. Testimonials are incredibly powerful. With anything in fundraising, they’re just as equally powerful in planned giving marketing as any other fundraising. Always include a call to action. Now, there are three extras. Always be real in your communications with donors. They will see right through it and it will turn them off.

In your newsletters, if you’re writing an article on bequests, tell them, “Remember organization XYZ in your will.” Always. Show the face of your work. Show the impact. So, something you have to sell is sell the sizzle, not the steak. For all you vegetarians, I’m sorry if this offends you. Really, you want to sell the dream, not what it really is. So, you’re not selling the bequest, the gift in the will, you are selling the vision of what the donor can help the organization realize through their gift. That is incredibly important. So, again, sell the sizzle, not the steak.

Let’s land this plane, as we are one minute away from 2:00. First and foremost, develop simple but impactful marketing materials. Keep it real. Add an option to online and offline donation forms for donors to request planned giving information so if you’ve got online and offline donation forms, include that all the time. Have the back of the house organized. It doesn’t have to be super, super elaborate. It can just be an Excel spreadsheet you keep track of or better yet in your database that you can track expectancies, you can track communication touches, actions and reporting.

Make time to respond quickly to inquiries from your donors. Unfortunately, I’ve made that mistake, where I moved faster than what I was capable of doing and then I didn’t respond and then I missed an opportunity and I will never do that again.

Steward your donors and integrate it into a specific recognition plan for planned giving. A giving club within your entire recognition program or planned gifts. Call it something separate. Brand it separately.

The way you’ll brand it has to be true to what your organization does. Surround yourself with knowledgeable people. So, if you don’t feel like you’ve got enough knowledge, experience and expertise in this, surround yourself with people who can help you along the way as advisors or get a mentor. There are tons of very experienced fundraisers who will be happy to take you on as a mentee.

Take it one step at a time. You can’t do everything at once. So, make your list of things you want to do and then figure out how you can get it done incrementally. Take the pressure off of you. You’re not going to get everything done right away. Find one champion on your board that will back you up. Where I was before, the board chair was my champion and then everybody was on board and everybody loved the idea. That helped the process a lot.

Also, a couple of other things that I’ve added to this list since I did the slides yesterday is don’t feel bad about talking about leaving a bequest with your donors. It is difficult to talk about writing your will for your donors. They need to reflect on their own existence, their own death, but don’t feel bad about it. They will have to eventually do it anyway.

I mentioned about asking for a copy of the will, walk the talk, get your own house in order. As a fundraiser, your own will, go through the process yourself so you can speak to your experience as well. Start early or just start. As soon as you can get started, even if it just one article or even just adding the option to your donation form for donors to request planned giving information. If that’s all you can do this fiscal year, that’s fine. Get it started, but just do one thing and then make it roll.

All right. So, we are at two past 2:00 and now we’ve got time for questions. I tried to answer some of the questions as we went along, but let me just scroll to see what questions did I miss. Okay. One question from Steven, “How do you market a planned giving program and recognize unrealized requests without offending or marginalizing annual donors without the means of a planned gift or a major gift?”

Here’s the thing. There are two things in your question here, Steven. First of all, like we said at the beginning of this session, a bequest and most planned gift vehicles are out of assets. Everybody has some form of assets. Let’s explain a little bit how a bequest works. When you pass away, all your assets are deemed sold when you pass away.

So, if you have a home, a car, you’ve got a retirement plan, etc., all of that are your assets. So, the bequests are made out of the liquidation of all of those things. That’s how you end up often being worth a lot more when you pass away than when you’re alive because when you’re alive, you’re making gifts out of your current revenue, out of your disposable income.

A planned gift is not about the person’s current means, it’s what their future means are. So, let’s demystify that. The root of your question is how do you do it? How do you recognize the donors without offending anyone? I have never once seen an annual giving donor feel bad about not giving a bequest because they may not be able to do it now, but they might be able to do it at a later date. You don’t know that.

The thing is you want to recognize them because if you don’t, you have a duty to recognize your planned giving donors just like every other donor, for one. For two, it’s also a good way for your other donors to see that this is another way that they can contribute to your organization later on. It plays double duty. Recognition is important. If someone is going to feel bad, they’re going to come and talk to you or they might end up stopping giving. If they would get upset at that, they probably weren’t as committed to your organization.

A donor that is really, really committed to your organization will not be offended by seeing other donors. If anything, in my experience, donors have found that to be inspiring and motivating and also it gave your organization that credibility to know that other donors are so committed and they believe so much in your organization that they’re willing to give even after they’re gone. So, look at it as something positive and you’ll see how other donors will jump on board.

Someone is asking about getting help creating planned giving policies. Where can they get help? Well, you can get help, you either get a consultant to help you do that, but I would say if you’re a member of AFP or any other professional associations, often times in the resources, they will have sample policies.

So, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you really don’t have to start from scratch. Better yet, ask a fundraiser in a university or a hospital or another organization that has a planned giving program and ask them for a sample of your policy that you can use as inspiration for you to draft your own. You don’t have to start from scratch.

Really, it’s all about networking and trying to find someone else that does it and then just using that as inspiration. Better yet, you can even write to me, I can give you some sample policies. I’ve got tons and tons of examples because that’s how I developed mine. I didn’t write my policies from scratch. That’s the beauty of our sector. We all share a lot of our resources and we help each other out. So, if you want done, send me an email and I’ll send you the policies that I have and then you can adapt it to your own organization’s needs.

Someone here is saying, “We looked at setting up an endowment with our local community foundation, but they keep the corpus of the fund for themselves, giving us only the interest. Is that typical?”

Yeah. What they do is they don’t keep it for themselves. They manage it on your behalf. As a rule of thumb, even if you were to manage it yourself, you would keep the capital in the fund, then you would only use a percentage, which is usually approximately 4% or 5% depending on where you are. That is typical.

You don’t want to use the capital because the idea is that the capital is invested and you only use the interest that is generated from the investments. So, that is typical of an endowment fund. What you want to do if you’re talking to a community foundation and you’re talking to your own bank, for instance, or your own financial planners for your organization is you want to compare the management fees.

So, what is more advantageous for you and if you’ve got . . . for instance, if your organization has investment policies. For instance, here at Greenpeace, any investments, they look at the portfolio. Obviously, they don’t want their funds to be invested in oil, for instance or things like that. So, you want to have that discussion with the community foundation or even with your bank or whoever manages your funds. It has to go in line with your own organization’s investment policy.

Another question. Paul, “Any specific suggestion on how to convince the board to invest in a planned giving program when the payoff is 10 years from now and there are current more urgent financial urgencies?”

Awesome question. That’s the $10 million question, isn’t, Paul? Here’s a confession. That’s exactly the challenge we’re having here at Greenpeace. Although this is a very large organization, every Greenpeace office in every different country is a small shop like this. Some Greenpeace offices only have one or two fundraisers.

What they are grappling with is exactly that, that the executive director is like, “Well, we have urgent annual needs. If I only have two fundraisers, I cannot put both of them into going to get a gift that’s only going to be realized in 10 years.”

Here’s what you do. Here’s the argument that I always do. At one point, you’re going to be 10 years down the line. You’re going to be always chasing your tail for the current needs. It’s about investing. If you were to sit down and look at everything you do and you break it down to how much time you spend in marketing, how much time you spend on your annual campaign. Is there a way to rejig things so that you can invest 15% of your time in planned giving?

So, by starting the conversation now then, yes, you’re not pulling away from your annual needs, you’re just rejigging a little bit because eventually you’ll get to 10 years from now. You will have missed all those opportunities. That’s why I was saying earlier responding to someone else’s question, “Do some data mining.”

That’s what I did when I started at my previous job. I had a Griffin Report. Griffin Report, if you’ve never heard of this, amazing company. They’re out of Ottawa. What they’ll do is they’ll pull your donor database information for the last 10 years, for instance. I think, if I’m not mistaken, Bloomerang does this as well.

They will slice and dice your database in all kinds of different ways and give you strategies of what you could do to improve your planned giving program. It didn’t cost a lot of money, actually. It really didn’t. It gave me strategies and it told me also who are the prospects for my planned giving program. You can look at them and just say how much potential these donors have of making a gift later on and then if you look at the lifetime value of your donors, then you can plan accordingly.

By having all of this information, you can present that to your board and say if we were to implement the planned giving plan. So, showing by showing the potential of how much they can bring in the long term is a good way of convincing board members. I hope that answers your question.

Here’s another one. “My CEO and board are already in support of starting a planned giving program.” Yes, awesome. “What are some actionable steps to take within the first year to get the program going?”

First thing’s first is marketing it, first thing you have to do. So, how do you market it? Start writing simple articles about, “Did you know that you can leave a gift in your will? This is what can happen. This is what we’d be able to do if you left a gift in your will. Look how easy it is.” You can start writing short articles and start planting the seed in your donors’ mind. You can, like I mentioned before, you can start adding that tickler in your donation coupons for your donors to ask for information on leaving a gift in their will for you.

You can also reach out to lawyers in your area, in your community, and provide them with information about how they can talk to their clients about when they write a will, that they can leave a gift. So, these are very simple ways that you can launch your program, really. Of course, you can either do it at large or if you have time, target it by identifying some donors and based on the prospects list that I shared earlier, identifying who those people are in your database and sending them a survey.

So, get them going on a survey or even just writing them a letter. “Hey, did you know that we accept gifts in a will? This is why we want to offer this to your donors. This is why we think that you’d be interested in this,” those things like this that you can do that is not extremely time consuming. It does required thought, granted, but these are simple ways that you can get it done. Let’s see, other questions . . .

Asking for bequests uncomfortable for donors? It can be uncomfortable for donors. But most of the time, I would say it’s more uncomfortable for the fundraiser. So, what’s important is that you have to make sure you’ve done your due diligence. What I mean by that is you want to make sure that you have provided the donor with a lot of information. It takes a long time before the donor knows exactly that you can accept gifts in their will.

So, the biggest issue we’ll find, and I think you’re writing this. I know some of our board members felt uncomfortable when we were talking about reaching out to donors to establish planned giving through bequests. Here’s the thing. People feel uncomfortable, a) asking and, b) talking about death.

So, change the paradigm. Change the narrative. What do I mean by that? Look at it from a glass half full as opposed to a glass half empty. What I mean by that is focus on what the organization could accomplish if your donors made a gift in their will, if they were to leave a legacy to your organization. What would the organization look like?

Here’s an example. This is not an exercise that I came up with. It was actually this great fundraiser named Robbie Haley, which maybe a lot of you have heard before. This is an exercise that she does with board members. She shared it with fundraisers after a few sessions. Will you get your board to sit down and write on a piece of paper how much they give right now to the organization? This is all done confidentially. They all do it themselves. They don’t share this with anybody.

Then you ask them to write down what would be an exceptional gift that they could give to your organization. You let them reflect on this. Then you ask them what would I as a fundraiser in this organization need to do to get you to make that exceptional gift.

Basically you’re putting them in the place of the donor. By doing that exercise, it kind of diffuses that discomfort. Okay? So, that’s an idea of an exercise. So, you always want to teach your board members how to help you in fundraising by putting them in the shoes of a donor, which they are, really. In my experience, when I’ve done that, the switch happened. The switch happened and then they understood how important and how easy it can be. So, I hope that helps, Jennifer.

“Is it appropriate to include remember XYZ in IRS donation documents?” You can include the, “Remember Us,” in your will, in any and all communication that is appropriate in that way. So, I would say yes, definitely. What other questions am I missing?

“Is the process different for a church versus a nonprofit organization?” I don’t believe so. If they’re a registered charity, the process is still the same. Actually, my experience, faith-based organizations usually do really, really well when it comes to planned giving and bequests. So, I believe, if I’m not mistaken, the charitable status for churches in the US is different than the one in Canada.

So, unfortunately, I don’t want to speak to that effect because I’m not an expert on that. My guess it that yes, the process is the same. I would encourage you to perhaps reach out to another church if you’re working at a church organization and just double-check that. I really don’t want to say something that is completely wrong. So, unfortunately that is one of my limitations in that way.

“What is the best way to respond to a donor who wants to give you a more complex planned gift than your organization is ready to do?” Okay. That’s a really good question. “So, do walk them back down to a simpler bequest? I’m concerned about not coming across robust on our planned giving program.”

Here’s the thing. You need to do a risk assessment in this case. Here are several things to consider before you talk them down. It’s kind of like someone wants to give you $50,000 and you don’t know how to manage it, right? How are you going to do this? Do you want to say no to the $50,000? No, of course not.

What you want to do is if the gift seems more complicated than what you can currently handle, go back to your board. Is there anybody in your board that can help you through this process? Is there an expert that you can either hire or get pro bono to help you manage this gift? Of course, it depends on the complexity of the gift.

You also want to go back to see does it fit with your gift acceptance policy? If it doesn’t, the answer is pretty straight forward. If it’s just a question of you not feeling comfortable because you don’t have enough knowledge or whatever, go find someone in your community that can help you through this if you think and if you feel strongly that what you would be able to do with that gift could really elevate your organization. If in the end, your risk assessment results in something that could be very timely, very costly for your organization, then you’re better off backing off, backing away from the gift.

Don’t forget, I know we always say as fundraisers, we are told that we need to get as many gifts as possible, but if it’s not in the best interests of the organization, you have a responsibility, and an ethical and professional responsibility to back away and say, “This is not right for my organization. So, I hope that answers your question.

So, Rita is saying that in Detroit, they have a leave a legacy planned giving roundtable and they have many resources. In Canada, if you’re in Canada, the CGP also has a leave a legacy program and they are a wonderful resource.

Paul, “Do you win a prize for the best question?” I wish I could give you something, but here’s that. You’ve got bragging rights. Is that good enough?

Another question, “Thoughts on when it’s appropriate to add a dedicated planned giving officer to your staff.” Very good question, Stacey.

I would say when you’ve started generating enough revenue that warrants the expense. You have to look at your entire program and how much you have grown your planned giving program and what the expectancies are for the next few years and your overall revenue for your fundraising program.

You might want to consider maybe having a planned giving officer on a part-time basis at first until that program grows and then the program is generating enough revenue to warrant it being full time. So, you want to consider something like that.

You could also consider outsourcing it. There are also a lot of fundraisers that are not necessarily consultants, but they do small contracts here and there. I was doing that for an organization when I was consulting. I had one organization where I was their in house fundraiser one day a week. I managed their things to the best of my abilities on one day a week. It was a really small job.

We did some pretty good amazing stuff in just that one week. So, there are different ways that you could structure it. Basically you have to look at your entire fundraising program and how evolved it is. It really depends on your own reality.

I can’t see any other questions and we are at 2:23. If there are any other questions, type them in or forever hold your peace. My contact information is here. Steven is going to send the slides later today or tomorrow and you’ll have my contact information — my email, my Twitter handle, my LinkedIn. If you have additional questions afterwards, please don’t hesitate to write.

I’m very happy to continue answering questions offline and if you want examples or anything, I have a great Dropbox resource. It’s basically the last 14 or 15 years of everything I’ve accumulated over the years. I’d be happy to give you access to that and you can have a lot of samples, everything that has to do with fundraising.

Steven: Well, that was awesome. I appreciate you answering questions beyond the 2:00 hour. Thanks to all of you who hung around and asked questions. It was really fun to hear the dialogue between the attendees and you, Ligia. So, this was really awesome. Lots of great information. I definitely learned a lot just listening in.

So, thanks for being here. Thanks for taking time out of your day to share all of your knowledge about planned giving. This was a lot of fun.

Ligia: It’s my absolute pleasure and I wish you all a lot of success.

Steven: Please do reach out to her. Obviously she’s a wealth of knowledge and she can get you hooked up with that Dropbox resource and all that good stuff. Do check out our website. We’ve got a lot of great resources on our website as well. We’ve got a lot of downloadables. We have, of course, our weekly webinar series, our podcast and our newsletter. We’d love for you to check out all the goodies on the Bloomerang website as well.

I want to highlight the next webinar that we have coming up. We’re off next week, but we are back two weeks from today, April 14th — hard to believe it’s April already — but we’ve got Claire Axelrod. She’s going to talk about stewardship, which was a lot about what Ligia talked about today, but we’re going to dive into stewardship specifically. If you do what Claire is going to talk about in two weeks, I think those planned gifts will start to roll in for sure.

So, check that out. Do register for that. It’s totally free, totally educational. We’ve got lots of other webinars scheduled out well in advance. You’ll see them on that page. Just click our resources tab and click on webinars and you may find a topic that is interesting to you.

Thanks again for hanging out with us. This was a lot of fun. Do look for an email from me later on this afternoon. I’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides. You’ll be able to look at all that good stuff.

But for now, we’ll say goodbye. Have a great rest of your afternoon and a great weekend and hopefully we’ll see you again in a couple weeks. So, see you soon.

Major gift fundraising

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.