Much like the topic of major and mid-level gifts I wrote about a few days ago, there is an uncomfortable chasm between planned giving and major gifts in most non-profits today.
Often the gap between the two is caused by a management system that doesn’t integrate the two.  But, more often than not, it is simply a lack of understanding on how to “get along” on the part of the players, the MGO and the PGO.
Jeff and I find that most MGO’s really don’t understand planned giving and, if they do understand it, they work hard at keeping that Planned Giving Officer “out of my business”.  This last dynamic is caused mostly by a faulty credit system where one party can win and the other needs to lose.  I don’t know why we construct these win-lose systems, but we do.  And it wreaks havoc with our good people.
There are four steps that Jeff and I suggest each organization take to make sure Planned Giving and Major Gifts are integrated:

  1. Give both parties a great deal of training.  The MGO should receive planned giving training and the PGO should be part of major gift training.  Just taking this one step will increase knowledge and awareness for everyone on the team.
  2. Meet together frequently.  I am amazed at how many major gift meetings do not include planned giving people and the other way around.  While it is true that a great deal of content in a major gift meeting may be irrelevant to the overall productivity of a planned giving person (or the other way around), the fact is that meetings could be organized to accommodate the interests of each team.  Why not try it?
  3. Plan together routinely.  Why not look at the caseloads of each MGO and PGO and identify those donors who have planned giving AND major giving potential and interest?  Why not then work at planning approaches and handoffs together?  There is no reason NOT to do it.
  4. Get the credit thing solved and under control. It is incomprehensible to me that a manager worry so much about giving soft credit to an employee.  Yet we see it all the time!  Here is a manager who gives the PGO credit for the execution of a planned giving instrument, but refuses to give soft credit to the MGO who introduced the PGO to the donor and helped pull it off! Goodness, people!  Can’t we just get along??

Implementing these four steps will signal to each MGO and PGO that it is a good thing to work together.  It will also tell the donor, because of the friendly behavior they will experience from both parties, that this organization is one where each department actually talks to, relates to and likes the other!  This could be revolutionary!
Several weeks ago I received a letter that an MGO produced introducing her good friend and colleague, the PGO, to her donor.  I want to share it here so you can see how this works.  It is an excellent example of being strategic and sharing expertise.  It also moves the relationship with the donor along.  Here’s the letter:
Donor Name
City, state zip
Has it been a few (or more than a few) years since you last reviewed your will and/or living trust? Do you know how the current laws would apply to documents that were drafted before they were in effect?  Have you considered the impact of changing estate tax laws on your beneficiaries?
We, at NAME OF ORG feel it is very important that you keep your estate plans current because there have been many changes in the law over the last several years, and we will see more changes in 2013. In order to help you make sure your plans are current and truly reflect your wishes, we are offering a complimentary service to our most loyal donors.
If it has been a few years, or if you are confused about what these estate planning documents really mean, NAME OF PGO, our planned giving director can, at your convenience, come to your home and review your documents with you.  NAME OF PGO has more than 20 years of experience and will review each document with you to help you understand what the documents instruct your executor and/or trustee(s) to do.
Her review of your documents with you will look for the following:

  • Are they current or do they need to be updated? Do you have more than one version of your will?
  • Are the instructions consistent with your current wishes?
  • Are the administrators current or do they need to be updated?
  • Is your list of beneficiaries current or do you need to make changes?
  • Has there been a death or change of circumstance in your family that will impact your estate planning documents?
  • Are your power of attorney and health care directive agents current?
  • How will the planned changes in the law impact you in 2013?

We have witnessed so many cases where our donors had these documents produced more than 20 years ago and have never looked at them again.  This is not good for you.
When we do sit down and review them, many times our donors are surprised at what they initially had drafted and discover that their estate planning documents no longer reflect their current wishes.
Recently, we have also seen several cases where documents were in conflict with each other creating problems and additional expense for beneficiaries that could have been avoided. We want to make sure your documents accurately reflect your intentions and NAME OF PGO is pleased to offer her assistance.  If you need to make changes, she will be happy to refer you to an attorney.
To schedule this free consultation, please call me at TELEPHONE NUMBER.  You can also email me at EMAIL ADDRESS.  We look forward to assisting you.
Donor Relations Director
This letter, or some form of it, has worked well for this organization.  And the reason it does is because the MGO and PGO are working together to provide a real service the donor.  I know both of these ladies very well.  They are “pros”.  And their solid working relationship coupled with a management system that rewards integration is resulting in very healthy donations to the organization.
Cooperation and integration of Planned Giving and Major Gifts really pays off!  You should try it.