How do you implement planned giving into your organization’s fundraising plan and goals?
Read a transcription of a podcast produced by The Fund Raising School, narrated by Bill Stanczykiewicz, assistant dean for external relations and director of The Fund Raising School, and Phil Purcell, senior counsel for philanthropy at the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.
Bill Stanczykiewciz (BS): Planned giving needs to be a part of your fundraising campaign, and a national expert is going to help you understand how to do that.
I’m Bill Stanczykiewicz, and this is the First Day from The Fund Raising School. I’m joined by my colleague Phil Purcell. Phil is a national expert on planned giving and teaches that course for us at The Fund Raising School.
Phil, as we teach, we often hear some apprehension about planned giving. But you not only are not apprehensive, you are enthusiastic about planned giving. What do fundraisers needs to know?
Phil Purcell (PP): It’s not as complicated or scary as one might suspect.
The reality is there are some techniques that are very simple. I call them “easy button” planned gifts that really any organization can do to promote and have good results.
BS: What would be an example of an “easy button” planned gift?
PP: Well one is promoting the idea of including your organization in a donor’s will. Eighty or ninety percent of deferred planned gifts, and by deferred I mean at the death of the donor, are by a simple will bequest. So that’s simply a couple of sentences, maybe three, included in a will or a trust document.
So an organization can craft three or four simple sentences, using an attorney who may be on their board of directors, or a pro bono volunteer. Make sure you get your organization’s name completely correct, and then promote it. Provide sample language in your newsletter, in your website, and then hand it out to donors. If you do that simple thing, that would be a good opportunity.
BS: The latest survey data from Gallup shows that fewer than half of Americans even have a will and of those, only 20 percent mention charity in it, so that means we have a lot of room to grow in this area. How does a fundraiser do that? How do we enter into a conversation about a will with our donors?
PP: One way to do it is to ask them the question, ‘if I could share with you a way to significantly help the future of our organization by leaving a legacy that doesn’t cost you any money now and it’s very simple to do, would you be interested?’
That’s a hard question to say no to. Another way to approach it is saying, ‘many other benefactors, donors, and supporters to our organization have chosen this very straightforward way to leave a legacy for our benefit. It doesn’t require any outlay of current dollars, but it can leave an amazing gift down the road. Would you be interested in hearing more about this technique?’
Either one of those could be a simple segue into a conversation about a will bequest. Of course, bring with you samples of simple bequest language to actually show them how easy it might be for their lawyer to do.
BS: This process aided by the fact that when we talk about planned giving, we’re not talking to strangers. Almost always we’re talking to people who have been longtime donors of the organization.
PP: That’s absolutely correct. It’s a very important point. A lot of people think that they have to “ferret out” the wealthiest people because estate planning is only for the wealthy.
Well that’s not true. Everybody can have a will and can include a nonprofit in it. And of your donor pool, those longtime annual givers, even at small dollar amounts, can be those who leave you magnificent bequests. Again, it’s not costing them any current dollars.
The key is loyalty. The longer over time that they’ve given, and with consistency, is important.
BS: You talk about when we’re not including planned giving, even as simple as a will, we’re leaving money on the table. This is a substantial opportunity for fundraisers.
PP: That’s exactly right. It’s easy for CEOs and boards of directors to be concerned about the budget. And that’s understandable.
But our organizations have perpetual lifespans. They’re meant to be here forever. The point is that simply including these prompts can lead to planned gift activity. Sadly, these benefactors do pass away.
Organizations may think it’s farther down the road than it is, but sometimes, it happens sooner than you think.
The more you plan, you increase your likelihood that some may be received sooner rather than later.
BS: We need to be working on both the annual fund and working on planned giving if we’re a nonprofit without a separate planned giving department.
PP: Exactly. So few charities nationally have the ability to staff planned giving separately. That doesn’t mean that you can’t include planned giving in your work plan. Work it into some marketing activities, like putting a check box on the reply card for your annual fund. On your website, have a button that says click here to learn more. You can have the sample bequest language.
You can mention it to your board. Or you can have a simple planned giving recognition society, with a simple luncheon or coffee. You might say, how big will that group get?
Well, planned gift donors tend to be small in number overall relative to your total donor base, but the relative gift size is large. I encourage small organizations that if you don’t have this recognition society, that you start one. And tell those initial members that they’ll be known as legacy members or initial founders and that they’ll be special members of the society.
First, go to your board of directors and your longest-standing donors, and see if they’ll be a part of this. That’s a great way to kick it off.
BS: This continuation language is very influential. We’re helping the donor understand that they can continue to be engaged with our organization and our organization’s impact, even when they are no longer in this world.
PP: That’s correct. Many people recognize that their annual giving has been important to the organization but when they’re gone, there goes my annual gift. This is a way to perpetuate or replace it with a major or larger gift.
BS: And we hear over the three decades that there will be trillions of dollars of wealth transfer. As fundraisers, does a planned gift have to be a certain amount or are we looking for a certain minimum?
PP: Be open on this. I would suggest that you should craft simple bequest language by encouraging your donors to think about it as a percentage of their estate. So you have to be open to what that might bring.
If you state it as a percentage, and the estate value goes up, so might the percentage. So I would keep it open-ended and not have a minimum dollar requirement. And you’ll reap better rewards that way.
You’re promoting a technique or an idea that will open a door that will maximize your philanthropy from your many donors.