7 Keys of Major Gifts – Key #5: Turning Planned Giving into Strategic Giving
With trillions of dollars transferring from one generation to another in the next few decades, planned gift options are an essential part of an ideal comprehensive major gift program. If you don’t offer planned giving options to donors, you must put a planned giving program in place, not only to help your good donors in the critical planning they must do in this area, but also to secure additional funding.
I’ve titled this post, Turning Planned Giving into Strategic Giving, because of some sage advice and input from my colleague Robert Shafis, our new Director of Planned Giving Services for Veritus Group (and a very experienced expert in planned giving).
Planned giving programs, as run by most nonprofits, don’t operate effectively. The majority of them run using an outdated planned giving model. Here are the four things that Robert sees in the marketplace:

  1. A lead generation program is not in place and, if it is, it’s old and outdated and not operating effectively. This results in few qualified planned giving leads coming into the organization, slowing down planned giving production and resulting in lost opportunities.
  2. The staffing plan is wrong. A technically-oriented planned giving officer is hired, and it is up to him/her to manage the entire program, including qualifying all the leads. This results in a highly paid employee using less than 30% of his or her time to actually talk to donors about planned giving.
  3. Performance metrics are either non-existent or wrong. Most planned giving functions are measured by yearly revenue. This is not enough, and it doesn’t address more critical data points: effectively cultivating the prospect, and tracking the number and quality of agreements written.
  4. Society is faced with fast-paced changes in laws, demographics, and technology, and most planned giving programs aren’t functioning at full capacity using best practices. And they’re failing to keep track of these changes.

The net effect of all of these situations is that the non-profit isn’t realizing all the planned giving revenue it could generate during the greatest transfer of wealth in human history.
Here is what Robert and Veritus Group are doing to address this situation:

  1. We start with an assessment of your current program so we clearly understand WHAT you’re doing now and HOW you’re doing it.
  2. We make sure a healthy and aggressive lead generation program is in place that utilizes the best practices of conventional lead generation as well as state of the art online social media tracking of prospects’ “digital body language” to signal readiness for contact and engagement. You cannot just use the old direct mail print strategies of the past. You must include digital and social media strategies.
  3. We help select, train and co-manage planned giving staff, which includes the placement of a Planned Giving Officer (PGO, who is the main donor contact), a Lead Outreach Associate who qualifies prospects and a Stewardship Associate who plays the critical role of stewarding the donors who currently have planned gift agreements with the organization. This approach to staffing assures that someone other than the PGO qualifies donors, that the PGO dedicates all of his/her time to relating to donors, and that the current planned giving agreement donors are stewarded and retained. This is a critical point in that most Planned Giving Officers are wasting their time qualifying leads rather than being with donors.
  4. We set up performance evaluation that’s driven by best practice metrics that measure lead generation response rates by source, number and value of agreements written, conversion rates to deferred but qualified and highly qualified prospects, identification of hidden gifts and donor-advised funds prospects. This assures management and the planned giving staff know exactly where they are on their performance.
  5. We bring information on the latest laws, marketing approaches and technology to your planned giving program to make it even more successful than it already is.

By using The Veritus Way of Planned Giving, your non-profit can be sure of 1) a focus on the right potential donors 2) effective staff management 3) goal setting and a plan for each qualified donor 4) good stewardship implemented to keep planned giving donors engaged and 5) growing planned giving distributions for years to come.
As demographic and technological changes rapidly affect society, The Veritus Way of Planned Giving brings you the perfect intersection of new technology and personal relationship.
Another thing we pay attention to is the intersection of major and planned gifts. Let’s face it – these two “camps” are often managed separately, compete with each other for “credit,” and often don’t talk to each other. It’s like your family doctor, the general practitioner, never talking to or relating to the specialist! Crazy.
We’re talking about ONE individual person here – one donor who has cash and assets and who is currently living but eventually will pass away. It’s one person whose philanthropic needs should be comprehensively addressed. But we often don’t manage it that way. That’s why we feel so strongly about how these two gift-giving methods come together, and why the passage between them must be navigated carefully. Because it’s populated with your best donors who must be treated with great care and receive the professional attention and interaction, they’re accustomed to and expecting it.
So the first critical points in Turning Planned Giving into Strategic Giving are:

  1. Make sure you have a best-practice lead generation program in place that uses a combination of classic methods along with digital and social media.
  2. Make sure your staffing plan moves from the old way of doing things, where the PGO is doing everything, and on to supporting the PGO in a way so he or she can be with donors, while other staff qualifies leads and stewards planned gift donors.
  3. Make sure you measure the right things using best practice performance metrics and evaluation.
  4. Make sure you’re up to date on the latest laws and sector/industry information.
  5. Make sure the functions of planned giving and major giving are totally integrated. End the usual competition in these areas. Treat the donor as one person instead of two halves.

There’s one more reason to beef up your planned giving efforts beyond the points above. Your good service in this area will also protect some of your most valuable donors from abuse. Let me explain.
Lisa Gibbs, writing in Money Magazine, tells the story of how a local insurance agent “persuaded Art Tener, 79, a retired auto dealer service scheduler, to roll $113,000 in savings he had in annuities into new deferred annuities that handcuffed the money for up to 16 years despite a terminal illness that doctors said meant Art had less than two years to live.”
Art’s son Jim, 52, said: “Instead of enjoying what turned out to be the last nine months of his life, he didn’t have $100 to spare.” The article went on to say that: “One out of every five older Americans has been sold an inappropriate investment, paid excessive fees for a financial product or service, or been a victim of fraud.”
Here’s the reason I include the topic of abuse in this post. Don’t think for one moment that every major donor on your file has available to them the services of advisors that will help them not only plan but also avoid getting taken advantage of. Many do. But many do not.
And if you accept the premise that major gifts, when holistically applied to your good donors, includes ALL the advice related to the wealth of an individual – then you have to include in your services to donors everything that looks at current cash and assets, future disposition of cash and assets, plans that are in place or need to be put in place, AND protections against fraud.
Does all this sound like your donor has an incredibly good friend watching out for every aspect of their finances? Yes! That’s the point – a partner who walks with them – and someone who thinks holistically about it all. Now to be clear, a MGO or PGO should never take the place of a legal or professional advisor. (Tweet it!) The role I’m suggesting here is that you’re a good friend who is “another set of eyes” to make sure things are in order and done right.
Robert Shafis has helped me understand the vital role of planned giving in the organization. His input has helped frame some of the questions you should ask yourself when evaluating your program:

  1. Are you operating with the right philosophy? By this, I mean a holistic approach that genuinely cares for and serves the individual – even if it means helping them give to organizations other than yours. I also mean a service that’s watching out for your good donors as well, and making sure they’re not victims of fraud.
  2. Do you have the right program design? Besides all the traditional planned giving methods and approaches, do you have in place an effective and efficient structure, strategy and staffing plan as I’ve addressed here? And is the program integrated with the major gifts program? It must be!
  3. Is your communications/marketing plan strategic? Do you have a case for support for planned giving and regular, consistent messaging? Do you have a lead generation and follow-up strategy that actually works and is effective? Most plans we see in this area aren’t effective and don’t work. And it’s no wonder that planned giving revenue is practically non-existent!
  4. Is your staff following up on the leads that are generated? We often see leads ineffectively followed up on when a strategic plan for the donor is needed.
  5. Do you have a wide array of gift options? There are so many of them – you need to be able to offer alternatives to your donor, and know which gift options are feasible for your organization.
  6. Do you have the right staff? Selecting the right team or assigning the planned giving functions among personnel is critical. Even experienced staff need ongoing training, and entry-level staff will need more.
  7. Are you managing properly? The program must be managed to assure best practices to assure integration of effort, to eliminate competition between MGOs and PGOs, and to make sure every area of planned giving is appropriately executed.
  8. Do you have competent and up-to-date technical support? Some level of legal and tax knowledge in a narrow area is helpful within the staff ranks. But what’s critical is knowledge of boundaries and access to qualified expertise when required for particular cases.

There you have it, Key #5: Turning Planned Giving into Strategic Giving. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to make sure you’re doing this area right, both for the revenue it can bring to your good cause but also for the great and needed service you can provide your good donor.
Read the whole series, 7 Keys to a Successful Major Gift Program:

Key #1: Attributes of the Ideal Major Gift Organization
Key #2: Make Sure You Have the Facts!
Key #3: Do You Have the Right Moves?
Key #4: Develop Offers that Donors Want
Key #5: Turn Planned Giving into Strategic Giving (This post)
Key #6: Treat Corporations and Foundations Just Like Individuals
Key #7: What You Get Done Matters!