Should MGOs ‘Do’ Planned Giving?

Stay focused!

Jeff and I are often asked if MGOs should be engaged in planned giving work. Without taking even a second to reply, we say NO.

And here’s why.

  1. The MGO does not have the time. If you have a fully qualified caseload of donors, you do not have time to do ANYTHING but serve the passions and interests of those donors. When we have seen MGOs trying to add something else, like planned giving, their numbers are awful.
  2. Both areas suffer. The planned giving performance numbers are depressed, as are the major gift numbers.
  3. Planned Giving is highly technical. The only thing a good MGO can do is refer donors to PGOs. And they should do that. But trying to have a MGO engage in planned giving with donors is wrong thinking.
  4. It does not save money. Some managers think there is a great savings by blending positions, until they look at the performance and return on investment (ROI) numbers. Then they realize the money “saved” has been lost in the money not raised. It just does not work.
  5. It doesn’t address the full planned giving needs of an organization. Think about this. A MGO has 150 qualified donors. So, let’s say an organization has 3 MGOs. That’s 450 donors. There are thousands of other donors, outside the caseloads, who are great targets for planned giving services. Who is addressing this opportunity for the organization with this blended model? No one.

I know – in some quarters the “blended” position is “the very best thing.” But those who embrace this practice have not looked at the numbers. Most blended positions have very weak return on investment in both major gifts and planned giving. The numbers tell the whole story.

One area we do feel strongly about is planned giving referrals. MGOs should have a performance metric related to this area, for example “how many referrals did you give to planned giving”? But that is the only involvement MGOs should have, with one exception. If you are a small organization and cannot afford two positions, I can see having a blended position for a season. But get out of that mode as soon as it becomes economically feasible.

So if your manager is asking you to “do” planned giving, share this blog with him or her and start a conversation. If nothing else, it boils down to economics. Do you want to lose money and opportunity? Then stay on the blended track. If not, get off.




  • Travis Paulin says:

    I work at a large public university, and we find it helpful for our academic unit-based MG officers to be very well-versed in planned gifts, and capable of taking basic bequests, IRA beneficiary gifts, etc. all the way to the end with only nominal consultory involvement from planned gift staff (who are centrally placed in the university foundation). With a constituent base that is spread nationwide, this actually helps to speed gifts along in some cases because it requires less travel and coordination. If a MG officers naturally finds him/herself in gift conversation that involves a simple bequest, we can just deal with it and avoid the cumbersome “hand off”.

    However, we do bring our assigned planned gift officers in more directly and earlier in the case of a more complex gift, such as real estate, charitable trusts/annuities, or insurance. And the PG office provides direct PG marketing and information services centrally, so that we are not doing that in our unit-based development office, thus allowing our MG officers to maintain a steady pace of getting out the door to see donors and advance donor relationships, solicitations, etc.

    • Richard Perry says:

      Hi, Travis. Thanks for your comments. I think what you are saying is that the MGOs are into “heavy” planned giving referral work. And that is good. My point is that in every, and I mean every situation where there has been a blended solution, the economic performance of the MGO has suffered. So, while the planned giving program may prosper under such an arrangement, the major gift program doesn’t and caseload donors are not managed properly.

      So, while I agree that it is good for the MGO to know about and be conversant in planned giving work, I do not agree that it is good for the major gift program of an organization to actually have the MGO be responsible for planned giving revenue. That is the sole responsibility of the PGO. As I said earlier, we do support and promote a MGO having a performance and evaluation metric around planned giving referrals – they must do that.

      Lastly, the reach or footprint of a MGO, as relates all the donors on an organization’s file, is quite small since they should only have 150 qualified donors per MGO. This means that even if you have a blended position the MGO has very little planned giving impact on the whole file or that portion of the donor file that is planned giving responsive.

      I think we are essentially saying the same thing. Thanks so much for writing.

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