What's wrong with planned gifts?“What we’ll do is hire one person who is an attorney, and they can handle the planned gifts as well as the major gifts.”
That’s one of the statements we hear frequently.
We object to two things in that statement:

  1. Hiring one person to do both functions. You may have to do it if you’re a small organization. But for larger organizations it never works.
  2. Thinking you need an attorney to do planned giving. Nope. You don’t. I’ll explain that in a moment.

You’ve probably heard a number of other misconceptions about planned giving, like…

  • “Our lead generation program is working just fine.” Many of them aren’t. In fact, most of them are old and outdated, relying on printed materials that were designed decades ago and that are overly technical. All of this results in very few qualified planned giving leads coming into the organization, which slows down planned giving production and results in lost opportunity.
  • “Age is the most important factor in marketing planned giving.” It IS a factor. But the most important factor is a meaningful connection and relationship, just like it is for major gifts.
  • “Every gift happens at death.” No, planned giving can happen before a person dies.
  • “Donors are hard to engage on the subject of planned giving.” Actually, they aren’t. If you make a meaningful connection and understand the passions and interests of the donor, it can be quite an easy transition to talk to her about how she can use her assets to do more of what she wants to do.
  • “Taxes and income benefits are the primary motivators for planned gifts.” Nope. They are actually way down the list. The most important driver or motivator is helping the donor make a difference with their giving and their assets. Again, just like major gifts.
  • “All we need is a Planned Giving Officer (PGO), and we can get our planned giving program going.” This is partially true. But what usually happens is that 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 time to actually talk to donors about planned giving. And there is no one to steward all those good donors who have already made a planned gift – which is why so many of them change their minds and take the organization out of their will.
  • “We need to hit certain annual revenue targets.” Well, it is good to hit certain targets, but a lot of that is not in the control of the planned giving staff. A yearly revenue goal isn’t enough, and it doesn’t address a more critical data point: number and quality of agreements written.
  • “We have all the information we need to run a successful planned giving program.” Not for long. 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.
  • “Planned giving is complex and scary.” It doesn’t have to be. At its core, it’s about helping a donor fulfill their passions and interests through the deployment of their assets.

The net effect of holding onto all of these misconceptions about planned giving is that the non-profit isn’t realizing all the planned giving revenue it could during the greatest transfer of wealth in human history.
Well, what can you do it about it? Here are some basic steps:

  1. Do an assessment of your current program so you clearly understand WHAT you’re doing now and HOW you’re doing it.
  2. Create a long-term forecast and plan – we suggest a 5- to 10-year view. This will help you know where you’re going.
  3. Fix your lead generation by figuring out the best platforms to communicate planned giving, and use one 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.
  4. Put the right staff in place. This 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 donors with current planned giving agreements are stewarded and retained. And if the volume of planned giving in your organization is too small to justify this level of labor, then make sure you cover these functions in your plan.
  5. Set up performance evaluation that is driven by best practice metrics. 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.
  6. Make sure you have the latest laws, marketing approaches and technology information so that your planned giving program can be even more successful.
  7. Double down on stewardship of current planned giving donors. This is so critical. You need to steward the people who have already made commitments to you. This is an area that is often ignored, which is why so many planned giving donors change their minds and take the organization out of their planned giving plans.

Take these steps now and get your planned giving program on the right track. We can help you do it as well. We offer a free assessment to get you started. Click here to get the process started.
The important thing is to DO something so that you:

  • Focus on the right potential donors by having a lead generation and qualification program that is effective and up to date.
  • Have deployed staff that effectively handles the three functions of planned giving: lead generation and qualification, forward facing donor cultivation and current planned giving donor stewardship.
  • Have goals and plans for each qualified donor.
  • Have a good stewardship program in place to keep planned giving donors engaged.

All of this is so critical. As demographic and technological changes rapidly affect our society, it’s very important to manage the intersection of new technology and personal relationship and get your planned giving program running effectively and efficiently.