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Insights from Karen Climer about fundraising and nonprofit organizations

Three Simple Planned Giving Tips To Implement Right Now

October 21st, 2013 by Karen Climer

You don’t have to be in the fundraising field very long before you start hearing about the huge generational transfer of wealth.  If you are sitting in your office waiting for the money to start flowing to your organization, you will be sitting there until your own demise.  Planned gifts are like all other gifts – they don’t just happen, you have to ask for them.  Here are three things that even the smallest development department can start doing today:

1. Don’t Call It Planned Giving  
Let’s say I sent you a letter and said, “Please send a donation so we can take you off the LYBUNT list.”  There are numerous problems with that ask, but the biggest one is that the donor doesn’t know what the LYBUNT list is.  If you are reading this blog, you probably know that LYBUNT means people who gave Last Year But Unfortunately Not This year.  But the donor doesn’t know or care about our fundraising jargon.  Why is it that we would never consider using the term LYBUNT with a donor, but we frequently use the term planned giving.

According to Michael Rosen, author of Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, 63% of people over 30 are not familiar with the term “planned giving.”  Yet we ask people to join our planned giving society.  We have a planned giving section on the website.  We might even have a planned giving officer.  No one knows what we are talking about, except other fundraisers!  Drop the phrase planned giving for anything that leaves the office.  Instead just call it making a donation in your will.

2. Focus On Bequests 
There are charitable remainder trusts, charitable gift annuities, gifts of life insurance, and all kinds of planned giving instruments.  Most donors (most fundraisers too!) don’t know the difference between these different planned giving instruments (they’re still trying to figure out what planned giving is!).  Since they don’t know what trusts and annuities are or how they work, they just avoid it altogether.  An outright gift in the form of a bequest is simple to understand and is hands-down the most common type of planned gift.  Eighty to ninety percent (depending on the study) of all planned gifts are outright bequests.  Focus your efforts on bequests.

3. Make Sure All of Your Marketing Materials Mention Bequests (But Not Planned Giving)  
Everything that leaves your office should have something about bequests.  On your reply forms for direct mail, have a box that says, “Please contact me about leaving Great Charity in my will.”  In your newsletter, have something that says, “Please remember Great Charity in your will.”  Even your event flyer can have something about leaving Great Charity in your will.  Whatever you do, don’t say, “Call the planned giving office for information about leaving Great Charity in your will.”  Remember, I don’t know what the planned giving office is.

I realize that this one liner on a flyer is probably not going to result in the great windfall bequest you’ve been waiting for, but it does put it in people’s head that they can leave a bequest.  It may lead to a conversation with a prospect about their will.

Even a department of one person can implement these three simple ideas.  Later this week, we will talk about who leaves bequests and who you should be talking to.

Posted in Planned Giving

2 Responses

  1. Ward

    Good advice, Karen. My title at Nova Southeastern University is ‘Director of Legacy Giving’. The term ‘legacy giving’ is much more accurate and self explanatory than the term ‘planned giving’. There were even development professionals who I met during the Planet Philanthropy conference who did not know what planned giving meant.

  2. Karen Climer

    I’ve heard the phrase “legacy giving” but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it as a job title. It’s always director of planned giving or maybe gift planning. I agree with you that legacy giving is a much better term to use in general and in a job title because it makes more sense to donors and to everyone else as well. As always, thanks for reading and commenting.

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