Whenever I used to hear the words “planned giving”, my eyes would glaze over.  It was like hearing about some foreign country that I never really wanted to visit.  Earlier in my career, when meeting with clients for planning sessions, we’d come up with lots of great strategies and cool ideas, and then someone would say, “Hey, what about planned giving?”
“What about it?”  And then we’d move on to something else.  Oh, how young and naïve I was back then.
Today, when I work with clients and we’re getting into strategies for their major gift donors, I’ll bring up ways to effectively use planned giving as a cultivation strategy,  and sometimes I see that same glazed look in my clients’ eyes that I once had.
Even worse, if the client I’m working with is fortunate enough to have their own planned giving department, most of the major gift officers I know rarely step over there to even say hi, let alone ask for some advice and help.
And, quite frankly, the planned giving officers are none too quick to head over to see what their major gift colleagues are doing either. I often hear from planned giving officers, “Well, you’d think they (MGO’s) would come over and see what WE have to offer here.”
Sure, if your department wasn’t super scary with big monsters and vampires!  (Which is what every MGO thinks about the planned giving department)
The truth is, major gifts and planned giving need each other in order to be more successful and raise more money.  Yet I really don’t see the type of cooperation that will complement both.  We’ve got to realize that planned giving is not just about wills and estates!
I’m telling you, if you sit down with a really good planned giving officer and ask him or her to explain to you all of the options for a donor today, you will be absolutely blown away! Is your donor worried she can’t make large cash gifts, but she really wants to help?   The answer could be a lead trust.
What’s a lead trust?  Truthfully, I have no idea!  But I do know that it’s an option for one of your donors to do more if he or she doesn’t want to give a ton of cash up front right now.  You don’t have to know all the in’s and out’s IF you have a planned giving officer to help you.  And, they would love to help.
And you, planned giving officer, don’t think the major gift team knows what you have in your bag of tricks.  The major gift team already thinks you’re from Mars, so understand that you have to show concrete examples of how it all works. Bring in some of your donors to explain why they have made a planned gift.  Bringing in a real donor puts a human face on it and I guarantee that, within a few weeks, you’ll have more qualified leads!
One of my favorite planned giving experts is our colleague Anne Nash. She really helped me understand that what we’re talking about here is putting together strategic gifts. By doing this you can take time with the donors to figure out what they really want to do in life, what their values are, what is important to them and what kind of legacy they want to leave behind. Then, you can figure out different instruments to make that happen for them…and for your organization.
Hey, since I know that you’re always looking for new ways to engage with your donors, introducing them to planned giving provides you with that opportunity.
I’m telling you, if you walk across the hall and knock on the door or set foot in the cube of your fellow planned giving colleague, you will be amazed at how you can serve your donor even more.
And to you, planned giving officer, get out of your office and talk to the major gifts team and sell them on the great products you have to offer to their caseload.  Make it simple, fun and engaging and together you’ll do great things for your donors.
Remember, we all need each other…