Years ago, I attended a fundraising conference where a nun approached me. She wanted help determining whether her organization was ready to have a planned giving program. I asked her, “Does anyone ever name your charity in their Will?” Sister responded, “Yes. We get about six bequest gifts a year.” I laughed and said, “Sister, I don’t know quite how to tell you this, but you already have a planned giving program. You just didn’t know it.”
The point of my story is that you might already have a planned giving program; you just need to grow it. Or, if you have an individual donor-base, you have an opportunity to create a planned giving program. In either case, there are many simple things you can do to get more planned gifts, including:
Tip 1 – Put In the Extra Effort:
Yes, having even a basic planned giving program requires extra work. While some gifts will come in during your tenure, many will not be realized until long after you’ve moved on. Planned giving is an investment in both the now and the future.
Shifting your fundraising efforts to include gifts of non-cash assets will drive overall fundraising growth. In every nonprofit sector, organization size, and time period (year-to-year, three-year, five-year), charities that sought non-cash gifts grew results dramatically more quickly than organizations that sought only cash donations, according to philanthropy researcher Dr. Russell James.
The extra effort you put into planned giving will pay dividends. The more effort, the greater the rewards.
Tip 2 – Stop Asking for “Bequests”:
When James asked people to “make a Bequest gift,” 18 percent said, “I might be/am definitely interested.” However, when asked to “make a gift in your Will,” 28 percent responded positively.
There are two problems with the word “Bequest.” First, most people don’t know what the word means. Second, among those who think they know the meaning of the word, they think it’s something that only rich people do. By the way, “rich people” is usually defined as people who have more wealth than the person doing the defining. In other words, most of those who know what the word “Bequest” means will think it’s something not meant for them.
By using simple, straightforward language, you’ll encourage more donors to include your charity in their Will.
Tip 3 – Use the Right Words for More Stock Gifts:
When James asked people to “make a gift of stocks or bonds,” 14 percent said they had an interest in doing so now. However, when he asked people to “avoid capital gains tax by making a gift of stocks or bonds,” 20 percent expressed interest.
The desire to avoid taxes will not inspire someone to give to your specific charity. After all, they can receive the same tax benefits by giving to any nonprofit organization. So, a solid case for support and effective engagement are essential. However, mentioning the benefit of tax avoidance can inspire greater interest.
There’s no harm in reminding donors of the benefits of giving; it can actually help. So, remind prospective donors, and close more gifts.
Tip 4 – Use the Right Message to Get More Charitable Gift Annuities:
James also asked older donor prospects if the following messages would inspire them to want to pursue the gift option described: 1) “You make a gift and receive a tax deduction and yearly income for life. Any unused gift amount will go to the charity at the end of your life.” 2) “Sara made a gift and received a tax deduction and yearly income for life. Any unused gift amount will go to the charity at the end of her life.”
The first message generated interest from 23.2 percent of respondents while the second message inspired interest from 38.6 percent. When prospective donors believed that someone else had already validated the approach by giving, it increased their own comfort level. Advertising professionals call this the bandwagon effect (or cognitive bias).
By sharing even simple examples of others who have made a gift, you can encourage others to follow suit.
Tip 5 – If You Want Planned Gifts, Ask for Them:
Only 22 percent of those over age 30 say they have been approached for a planned gift, according to a Stelter survey. However, 88.7 percent of people think it is appropriate for a nonprofit to ask for a legacy gift, according to Dr. Adrian Sargeant and Dr. Elaine Jay’s research.
While most nonprofit organizations with a planned giving program will ask select prospects to make a gift, the vast majority of prospects will still go un-asked. Instead, they’ll be exposed to a lot of passive marketing such as newsletters, un-dynamic web pages, emails, etc.
Ignoring a massive number of prospects, or relying on passive marketing, could be costing your charity millions of dollars in support. Instead, use engaging tactics to identify the strongest prospects. For example, you can use surveys to engage and help you rate prospects to determine appropriate cultivation and solicitation strategies. You can also use traditional fundraising methods to ask people to make a planned gift including direct mail and telephone appeals.
Prospects say it’s appropriate for you to ask them for planned gift. So, do it!
Your planned giving program can be as basic or complex as your staff and budget resources permit. However, taking even modest steps can yield significant rewards for your nonprofit organization.
About the Author:
Michael J. Rosen, President of ML Innovations, has been named a Top Fundraising Expert and a Top Charity Industry Influencer. He won the prestigious AFP-Skystone Prize for Research in Fundraising and Philanthropy for his bestselling book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. Michael publishes the highly-ranked nonprofit blog Michael Rosen Says. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.