PBS Newshour had an interesting segment during the show on January 7. A University of British Columbia research team conducted a small study on the effects of giving in toddlers and then carried it beyond to college students and adults. In the study, they found that even young toddlers express happiness when giving something to others.
I suspect anyone in fund-raising/fund-development will tell you, “duh” to the concept that it is actually a pleasurable experience to give. One of the interesting (and again, not new) findings in the study is that people who have the opportunity to see and/or experience the impact of their giving are even happier than those who just gave to a general “fund”. However, how often do organizations get caught up in trying to raise funds so that “we can accomplish our mission.”?
You likely saw the UNICEF and/or ASPCA commercials during the holiday season. What struck me about those efforts was the fact that there was no impact of my gift. All I saw was a portrayal of a very negative situation with a statement – help us help them. I have to confess, I was extremely turned off by the ads finding them very ineffective at telling me how either of these organizations do anything positive. Where were the impact/results pictures?
Watch the PBS segment and then consider your own communications. What are you telling your readers/listeners/site visitors? Are you telling them why they should support you? Or are you telling them that their gift has changed the life of Samuel who now has his own bed or Mary who can go to school because now there is clean water right in her village?
First, let me define the term “planned giving” so that we are all on the same page. Think of planned giving as the process of making a gift that requires an additional level of activity or planning due to a more complex set of issues. They require more negotiation or counsel than current gifts. Planned gifts are often “deferred gifts” because the income to the charity does not materialize until sometime in the future.
Planned gifts can be simple and provide immediate income to the charity such as a gift of securities (bonds, stocks, mutual funds, etc). They can also be quite complex, involving insurance, various types of charitable trusts, and more detailed estate planning. Planned gifts can be simple outright gifts to charity such as a securities gift or they can involve multiple family issues, planning for special needs, retirement income, etc.
If your charity accepts gifts of securities, and actively promotes those kinds of gifts, then you are well on your way to a planned giving program. But why should you consider other types/methods of planned gifts, especially if you don’t have the capacity for the traditional planned giving staff? Here are five things to consider:
- It’s about donor relationships. Planned giving initiates conversations with your donors in a deeper, more intimate setting. While you may not have the staff to engage with donors on the technical aspects of some of the gifting mechanisms, being able to provide resources to solve their challenges will help to cement the relationship you have built. Of course this also means that you have to be careful to properly steward those relationships.
- Reminding your donors that giving from their estate is a simple and easy way to make a legacy impact will cost you almost nothing. Add it in to any giving promotion, your website, your newsletter, etc. For the nominal “cost” of a few lines of text, your donors are reminded that they can express their appreciation for your organization even at death.
- In the past, it was thought that only large organizations could have planned giving programs because there needed to be someone to manage the process, invest funds, act as trustee, etc. With the growth of community foundations, there are now multiple ways for individuals to accomplish their goals without your organization needing to add staff. Establishing a relationship with a regional or national community foundation can be a very cost effective way of providing resources to your donors.
- Planned gifts that “mature” (or distribute their charitable remainder) can provide an unbudgeted source of income for special programs, additional initiatives or to offset expenses in the general budget. You can also set a corporate policy that deferred gifts will be designated for a specific fund or use.
- Planned gifts often provide the avenue to the largest gift the donor will make to your organizations. As you steward that relationship over time, older donors will gain an appreciation for your mission and may leave their ultimate gift to you to demonstrate that legacy lesson to their family and friends.
With these five considerations in play, is it time to implement a planned giving program for your organization? Contact me if I can help you develop a plan.
Your switchboard. Your receptionist. The first visible/audible face/voice that a person interacts with when contacting your organization. (For purposes of this post I am not going to deal with response center issues.) How many of us in the non-profit world give much thought to that donor/constituent experience. I think we often default into two camps – the first being technology driven (let’s install systems with automated attendants) and the second being lowest common denominator thinking (let’s just get an entry level person to answer the phone).
We had a unique opportunity presented to us to reposition the switchboard/receptionist team from under the facilities department to the donor care department. Needless to say, we jumped on it. Our focus is to provide a top flight experience for any caller or visitor to the organization. Now, I will admit that for many organizations budget does play a role in determining the strategy that is taken. But I would make the argument that this is one area that you can’t afford to cut corners. An individual who calls the organization to ask a question, make a gift, talk to a counselor, etc. and receives poor treatment will not be inclined to call again. And it doesn’t have to be a rude response on the phone. It can be a simple sigh as the call is answered, a confusing jumble of menu options, or a heavy accent that can turn someone away.
Think about it.