Third in a Series: Culture of Collaboration

Here’s an interesting thing about planned giving: most planned giving programs solely focus on future giving. This is good, to a point, in that the work of the Planned Giving Officer (PGO) is mostly about what legacy the donor can leave after he or she passes.

But the down side of this way of thinking has some very present-day consequences:

  1. The donor isn’t presented with current giving opportunities because “they’ve put us in their will” and therefore “they really don’t want to or can’t do any more.”
  2. The PGO is either not given the information or doesn’t know the information about current needs and so is not equipped with the same donor offers the major gift team has.
  3. There isn’t adequate stewardship of the planned giving donor because “they’ve made a future commitment and nothing else is needed.” Or there really isn’t any expense budget (labor and materials) to perform this function because there isn’t a present fiscal year payback for that expense and therefore it isn’t worth it. The result: up to 50% of the decisions on planned giving that donors made are changed just a few years before the donor passes, which means an economic loss to the non-profit. If the planned giving donor had been properly stewarded the donor would have been more likely NOT to change their will.

All of this represents opportunities lost not only in present-day and future revenue but in present-day relationship as planned giving donors aren’t engaged in current activities and involvement (giving and labor) opportunities.

So what does this mean for planned giving folks and how they think about major gift opportunities? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Planned giving personnel are usually focused exclusively on planned and deferred gifts, not on current giving. The opposite is true of major gifts, where those folks are focused on the present and immediate. Planned giving professionals need to understand that many of their donors are also interested in current giving. So they should learn, at least, a portion of the major gift strategies and approaches and present current giving opportunities to donors especially in the areas they’re interested in – the donors’ passions and interests. While a planned giving donor may give their estate or a parcel of property to the non-profit as a “general” contribution, they could very well contribute while they are living to the areas that they are passionate about.
  2. Planned giving personnel need to help major gift officers (MGOs) qualify their caseload donors for planned giving and not assume that the MGO is thinking about doing that, which they usually aren’t. A lot of donors on major gift caseloads ARE interested in planned giving. But many will never learn about how they can create a planned gift unless the PGO is talking to the MGO not only about how to do it but that it can be done. So, the PGO should proactively engage in “training” and providing information to major gift personnel on what they need and what is possible as it relates to planned giving and major gift caseload donors.
  3. MGOs can play a big role in helping their PGO counterparts understand how they manage their caseload donors – the approaches they take, how they handle objections, how they identify passions and interests and then serve them, etc. This sharing of information will help the PGO be effective in working with donors who have an interest in giving currently. So, the PGO should seek this kind of information and relationship with their major gift colleagues.
  4. PGOs should be in the loop on all the donor offers that major gifts officers are using with their donors. Find out what the donor offers are and get the information, as it will help you be effective at helping your planned giving donor consider current giving.

These are just a few of the things a planned giving person can do to increase communications and cooperation between these two fundraising functions. You can never have enough communication between planned giving and major gifts. And you should never assume that your major gift colleagues are either thinking very much about planned giving or even care about it.

Help them understand that the best way to serve their caseload donors is to not only give them current giving opportunities but also leave a legacy.


PS – Whether you’re a major gift fundraiser or a planned giving officer, you’ll want to check out our new course on planned giving. Click here to learn more!

Read the series “Culture of Collaboration”

  1. Lack of Collaboration Causes Failure
  2. What Major Gifts Needs to Know about Planned Giving
  3. What Planned Giving Needs to Know about Major Gifts (This Post)