The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

Archive for July 2009

Stewardship: The Best Tool for a Secure Future

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This was the title of the session presented by Kay Sprinkel Grace, author of several books on fundraising and noted speaker and consultant.  She made some good points that I think are worth sharing:

1.  Stewardship is the most neglected function in fundraising.  Our focus is much more on getting the gift, not engaging the donor yet The Bank of America study of high net worth individuals showed that 57% of donors stopped giving because they no longer felt connected.

2. Giving is passive; investing is active.  To transform donors into donor/investors you must engage the donor after the gift is made.

3.  Intentional stewardship is key (yet only a handful of organizations in the audience had formal stewardship programs even though organizations with them have done better this past year).  She referred the audience to a CASE paper on “Intentional Stewardship” which you can download here.

5.  Stewardship is not recognition, it’s deepening engagement.

6.  The gift you receive is not the relationship, it’s a symbol of the relationship.

7. Stewardship is a good thing to get your Board involved in because it doesn’t involve an ask.



Written by Phyllis Freedman

July 29, 2009 at 11:58 pm

Responsible consumerism.

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Twice last week at the Bridge Conference and then Friday in the twice monthly e-digest of The Boomer Project a future of “responsible consumerism” or some variant was predicted.  I find the concept that Americans, and Boomers in particular, are now making “a virtue of value shopping” a valid one and I think it has important implications for fundraisers.  The first mention came from Kay Sprinkel Grace in a session on stewardship predicting that impulsive giving will disappear.  Then, at the luncheon address, Anirban Basu, Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc., an economic and policy consulting firm in Baltimore, said that consumers (including donors) are striving for value and affordability.  He predicts that “depressed spending habits will become the new normal” and that it’s “the end of the Starbucks economy.”

Finally, came The Boomer Project e-mail (they bill themselves” as “The Nation’s Authority on the Boomer Consumer) with the takeaway from the idea of responsible consumerism that “Marketers that figure out how to deliver meaningful value at any price point will survive in the new Responsible Consumer Economy. Consumers want to get more out of what they buy. Help them do that and you’ll prosper.”

How do we do that as fundraisers?  Impact, impact, impact.  Donors need to be assured and reassured that their money is going for the intended purpose and that their money is having impact–producing results.  I don’t think we need to resort to statistics to make our point.  Impact can be illustrated by telling a story.  But one way or the other, if you can convince current and prospective donors that they are getting more bang for the buck from a dollar invested with you, you’ll get the gift.  By the way, Sprinkel Grace also said that donors are not institution-loyal, they’re issue-loyal.  So, speak to the responsible consumer in each of us and you’ll win support for your cause.


P.S.  I’ve always liked so-called “magic gift” amounts as a way of communicating to donors what their gifts will buy.  Anything from $15 for a box of nails that Habitat will use to build a house to $50,000 for a gradute fellowship at a university, can help donors feel more confident.  Just complement that kind of ask with a description of  the lives transformed as a result.

Legacy messaging to women.

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Jennie Thompson, ActionAid USA Board member and brilliant independent fundraising consultant  (and good friend) kindly forwarded to me new research by Chrysalis Research and Research Data Technology on behalf of the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund .  The research includes welcome information about legacy messaging to women.   While the main thrust of the reseach is that women play a prominent role in their households and in the community when it comes to philanthropic giving (not especially new news to most of us), the survey also confirms that creating a family charitable legacy is a priority for women.

The questions in the survey around family charitable legacy provide clues for how we might use more persuasive  language in making the case for legacy giving.  Forty-eight percent of those surveyed said “It’s critical that my children continue our tradition of giving.”   More generally, “Virtually all donors (89 percent of the males and females) surveyed agree that it’s necessary to research the organizations they give to in order to ensure credibility. Eight out of 10 charitable givers (79 percent) indicate that when selecting a charitable organization, they research how much money goes directly into funding programs rather than into overhead. Almost three out of four charitable givers (72 percent) said they would more likely support an organization that would benefit their own communities versus one that went beyond their community.”  How can we use this insight to message more appropriately?

The Heifer Foundation does a good job of describing their named endowment opportunity in just these terms:  “Heifer Foundation named endowments are a great way to eternalize a legacy of values. Many families have chosen to establish endowments to honor traditions, or to make a statement for future generations about the things that hold great importance in their lives and in those of their loved ones.”

This kind of language and message can be incorporated into all manner of marketing materials (e.g., newsletter articles, brochures and booklets, website copy, cover letters) and, of course, in conversations with donors.  Where appropriate, discussion of a family charitable legacy might help overcome any resistance children may have to their parents’ wish to designate some of their assets to charity.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

July 21, 2009 at 11:50 pm

The holy grail of fundraising.

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The Agitator is the one fundraising blog I read religiously because it so often contains really useful information.  Recently, The Agitator’s authors, Roger Craver and Tom Belford, published two white papers based on their research that have implications for planned giving marketing.  Donor Loyalty:  The Holy Grail of Fundraising and Donor Superstars are available on their website for a small fee (and worth every penny).  These papers focus on two groups of “donor superstars:”  “Loyalists” and “Recruiters.”

Loyalists are donors whose survey responses indicate they have:  (1) given two or more years to a given charity/cause or give to the same groups year after year and give to some group on a monthly basis.  Recruiters are donors who have either (1) “often” urged someone else to make a donation or describe themselves as a committed recruiter.

What Roger & Tom found is that 13% of Loyalists have a will with a charitable gift but an astonishing 35% have no will yet but would anticipate including a charitable gift.  Eighteen percent of Recruiters have a will with a charitable gift and a truly phenomenal 42% have no will yet but would anticipate including a charitable gift.

I previously wrote about how to select bequest prospects for planned giving marketing and I’d like to amend my recommendations and suggest including your Loyalists and your Recruiters, too.  How can you identify them without the benefit of surveying them?  If you have monthly givers who have given to you for two or more years that would seem to qualify the donors as Loyalists.  And, if you have an integrated database that enables you to identify donors who have used peer-to-peer fundraising tools available on your website, that would seem to qualify those donors as Recruiters.  Recruiters skew younger than Loyalists which makes sense if they’re using online tools.  So, this might be a good audience of younger donors for an investment of your planned giving marketing dollars.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

July 20, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Gift administration revolving door challenge.

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That’s the title of a recent post by Jonathan Gudema of Changing Our World.  In it, he laments the fact that the Bank of New York/Mellon has notified small nonprofits that as of September 1st they will no longer service their planned gving programs.  And, he offers at least one option for smaller programs looking for help.  While The Planned Giving Blogger has a more marketing, strategy, and messaging focus, Jonathan’s Planned Gift Blogspot focuses on the more technical aspects of planned giving program management.  His blog is a nice complement to mine and I encourage you to check it out here


Written by Phyllis Freedman

July 14, 2009 at 11:50 pm

The power of persuasion. Tip #1

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A number of years ago I attended a fabulous presentation by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., sponsored by the Stanford Social Innovation Review.  Cialdini’s research on ethical influence has important implications for fundraisers and I still keep a little laminated pocket guide with his principles of ethical persuasion in my wallet.  One of the key principles is what Cialdini calls “consistency.”  He means that once people make a choice or take a stand there is pressure to behave consistently with that commitment.

When I work with clients to launch a planned giving program, I try to help them identify key Board members (or the Chair of the Development Committee, if there is one) who are willing to champion the effort.  I suggest to them that if, at the meeting where the planned giving program proposal is up for review, these Board members will publicly state their commitment to making a planned gift, it’s highly likely they will follow through and that others will follow their lead.  They’ve now made a public commitment to making a planned gift.  The principle of consistency dictates that they must keep that promise.

That commitment can then form the basis of a planned gift ask to the remainder of the Board.  Even if the Board is not a “give or get” Boardactually, especially if the Board is not a “give or get” Board, a planned gift is not due until death, so should be within each person’s power to commit.  And in this economic environment, a planned gift is a great option for donors unable to commit to a large outright gift.

The idea of “Consistency” is just one of several principles of ethical influence outlined in a wonderful article by Cialdini, entitled “The Power of Persuasion:  Putting the Science of Influence to Work in Fundraising.” The others are summarized in this chart. Ethical Influence Click here and look for the “Download This” section in the right navigation pane to download a copy of the full article.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

July 13, 2009 at 11:45 pm

Who to market bequests to: Part II.

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Previously I wrote about the abundance of new research that, for many, is complicating the question of who to market bequests to.

For most organizations, especially those with limited staff and even more limited marketing dollars to invest the answer is still the simple and intuitive.

(1) Donors who have longevity giving to your organization (in fact if you can’t afford to append age, longevity can often successfully serve as a proxy for age);

(2) Supporters who are giving, annually, above your average.  This indicates a high degree of affinity with your cause;

(3) Donors who still use the title of “Miss.”  That tells you right away that she of a certain age and childless;

(4) Those who volunteer and who have given annual gifts.  Even if they don’t meet your longevity criteria, the fact that they volunteer and give tells you something about their level of commitment; and

(5) DOnors with affinity information (cancer survivorship, for example, if you’re a cancer organization) on file and who also donate.  These donors are great prospects because they know first-hand the importance of your work and they have already signaled their willingness to contribute.

And, for these audiences, to the extent that you have the budget, I think you can mail the spectrum of ages, adjusting the floor and ceiling to achieve the number that can be mailed within your budget.

For organizations able to be more sophisticated in their approach, either because they have a large number of names or because they have the budget, there are analytical models available from companies like Blackbaud that may help identify your best prospects.  Also, the Stelter Company recommends an interesting approach to dividing your marketing budget between “Recruiting” younger donors, “Transitioning” middle aged donors into bequest givers, “Motivating” Silent Generation donors to make commitments and “Maintaining” relationships with current legacy donors.  Obviously, the percentage spent in each category would have to be tinkered with, based on your available dollars and your ability to wait for a return on investment.  And some consideration needs to be given to the group that needs convincing to create a will in the first place.  But, it strikes me as a good place to begin the conversation.

Anyone else have an approach to recommend?


Written by Phyllis Freedman

July 7, 2009 at 11:50 pm