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.
I have been thinking a lot about the scriptural principles for Christian stewardship and life applications. As I wrestled with my own understanding, and searched the Biblical texts, I have boiled it down to the following 5 principles that I believe are at the core of Christian stewardship.
- God, as creator, owns it all. In the beginning of Genesis, God creates the world and everything in it. He then creates Adam to steward, or care, for creation. (Genesis 1:1)
- Money management is only part of Stewardship. Our call to be wise stewards includes our time, our talents, our relationships, and our finances. (1 Corinthians 4:2) “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (NIV).
- Our possessions are temporary. During life they may be destroyed or lost. At death they cannot be taken with us. Therefore, what we do with them today becomes even more important. (1 Timothy 6:7)
- Every spending decision will be, at some level, a spiritual decision. Our checkbooks provide a story of where our priorities lie. Biblical stewardship does not require that a Christian despise money or discontinue earning it. Money is a necessity for basic living. The Bible does warn, however, that the love of money creates evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
- Giving is not about the Old Testament tithe (or 10%). It is about the heart. The story of the widow who gives her two small coins in Luke 21:1-4 is the demonstration of this principle. The amount seemed trivial but it demonstrated her devotion to God. 2 Corinthians 9:7 continues this theme: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (NIV)
I hope that in some small way this list encourages you and is a basis for your own journey of understanding.,
Knowing your donors is a major step in targeting your communications effectively. There are a number of ways to slice your donor list and evaluate how you might craft communication across segments or groups of donors. Maybe your list isn’t large so segmentation may not be very efficient but to the extent that you can understand who your donors are, the better you will be able to communicate with them.
One easy way to understand your donor is to gather age demographics. Including a birth date field (even just month and year can be effective) on every response device is a simple addition that can pay off in a number of ways:
- Knowing your donor’s birth dates can provide you an opportunity to add a high touch to your donor communication. Sending birthday cards lets your donors know you are paying attention to them.
- Knowing the age demographics provides necessary information when considering the launch of a planned giving program. If you have a large portion of your donor file that is over the age of 55, planned giving marketing can be provide donors with an additional way to support the organization that they love.
- Understanding the proportions of your donors in various age ranges will allow you to tailor your communication language and style to those groups. Language and idioms that young people use will not resonate with older populations. Preferred color palettes are also different.
- Want to generate volunteer opportunities? Different age groups will respond to different opportunities. For example, older adults may appreciate the opportunity to volunteer in your office while younger adults will want to do “field work”.
These two charts can be used to evaluate some basic statistics on your age demographics. Determine the range groupings that make the most sense for your organization. Organizations with larger donor files can probably slice their segments into smaller ranges than organizations with smaller files.
Understanding the age demographics of your donor file will provide you with strong information about the profitability and lifetime value of various segments and ranges. It will also provide you with some indicators of the health of your donor file based on the spread of donors across the age ranges.
Congratulations to WestJet again for going above and beyond expectations.
I imagine this week’s show will be discussed ad naseum throughout the blogosphere today and tomorrow. Oh well. Thought I would add my two cents.
While I am impressed with the effort that is put forth into highlighting the plight of so many in Africa and here in the US, I still can’t help but wonder how the mix of celebrity “pitchmen/women” truly feel about the situation. I suspect that combining one year’s income from 3 or 4 of them would outstrip the GDP of one country in Africa. And yet they continue to appeal to “common” America to open up the purse strings and give. Just seems a little disingenuous to me.
Which leads me to a question. Is it the cause, the pitch, or the show that leads people to give? In development we often quote the phrase, “People give to people not to projects.” But how does that play out in this case? Are people giving because of the images they see on tv or because of the celebrity pitch?
Which leads to another question. How do we in the non-profit world truly feel about the celebrity pitch? A number of organizations use them to great effect. But where do we draw the line and say, “Put up or shut up!” Where is the break even point between the value of their giving and the value of their name associated with a cause?
Okay, I am done ranting for the day.