The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

PG Websites tip #1

with 7 comments

I’ve recently been asked to audit some gift planning websites and I noticed something they all have in common.  They start from the assumption that site visitors (that is, our donors) not only have an estate plan but intend to include a charitable provision. The content of the sites seems to suggest that it’s just a matter of helping the visitor identify the right type of gift.  However, statistics show that the vast majority of Americans, even those giving annual fund or direct mail gifts to charity, don’t even have a will.

It seems to me that we should make sure our websites (and all of our other marketing, for that matter) offer assistance to donors who don’t yet have an estate plan, including information on the importance of a will, how easy it is to get started, and how easy and satisfying it can be to leave a lasting legacy.  Given what we’ve learned recently about younger donors creating estate plans and making charitable provisions, offering valuable information for those in the planning stages is especially important.


P.S.  I’ll be posting more website tips in the future.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

November 30, 2009 at 11:31 pm

7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Phyllis, your comments certainly hit home for my experience as a nonprofit consultant as well. At least one study reports that the primary barrier to creating a will – the first step to making a charitable bequest – is “seeing a lawyer”! If this is true, we should be focusing more time on helping our constituents find resources that assist them in getting over or through this barrier. For instance, some people may need nothing more than a simple template will which can be found through online vendor sources or may even be provided by the State. Knowing one’s local and legal options may be the first thing your prospect wants to know…. leaving your organization an undivided interest in their closely held business may NOT be the first thing they want to read about on your website.

    Katherine Swank

    December 1, 2009 at 11:13 am

  2. And then there’s the idea of “Will Week.” Basically, you set aside a day (or a week) when people who do not have a will can come to a place and get a basic one written for free. It’s an idea I’ve run across in my work with community foundations. They’ll typically offer the service in exchange for, say, adding a $500 gift to the foundation in the will.

    Tom Ahern

    December 4, 2009 at 11:50 am

  3. I have coordinated “Will Weeks” too. They may not be an appropriate activity for all nonprofit organizations establishing a planned giving program, but they are a very useful tool for some! Years ago, I had a relationship with the Young Lawyers division of the local county bar association. Each year around 10 or so estate planning young lawyers volunteered their time to meet with and prepare a simple will for up to 5 people/couples (all of whom where donors from my organization). They liked having the event organizated; the volunteer time counted toward their required annual pro bono hours and they were advocates for my organization. It was a win-win situation for everyone. We polled the attorney for simple information without names attached. On average, a planned gift to the organization was included in 75% of all wills and the average amount was over $10,000 or it was a substantial % of the remainder. Intersting to note, most wills contained gifts to at least 2 other nonprofit organizations as well. A further win-win!

    Katherine Swank

    December 9, 2009 at 10:24 am

  4. Well, This is really the information that any internet marketer have to know before starting their business on the internet.Lots guys gave up simple because they chased the next big thing instead of reading posts like this .

    Cary Telecky

    July 7, 2010 at 6:06 am

  5. I couldn’t agree with you more Phyllis. I’ve been reviewing many of the major vendors of planned giving sites and found that they all don’t address the motivation issue, which is the most critical one.
    I asked one of them if we could put links on their standard pages to such articles that we’d develop and I haven’t heard back from them since. Stelter–which used to have the most technical, jargon-heavy content–has a pretty good idea with their life stages content.
    Katherine’s point about the lawyers is a critical one. We’re in the process of lining up a group of them we could list for our families.
    Do you create a process in creating such a list, which raises the issue of our responsibility for the list. Do others interview the lawyers, have some criteria for listing them, etc. Do you ask if they make philanthropy part of the conversation with their clients?
    Do others publish such a list on their websites (with a full disclaimer)? This brings up the tension between donors wanting to be anonymous and us wanting to have conversations with them. I’d err on the side of putting it on the web, but would like to hear different ideas.
    One motivator we’re looking at is to focus on guardianship issues. (Being a school we have lots of parents.) It’s such an immediate issue it seems as though it might work. Has anyone had experience with this?
    I like the wills week idea.

    John Ladd

    July 7, 2010 at 10:24 am

    • Hi John
      I think most of the website providers offer customization but at a cost, of course. I don’t see many organizations listing attorneys because, as I’ve written previously, most of the content seems to be aimed at people who already have estate plans rather than people who are just getting started. Virtual Giving’s new web content does, finally, include alot of good information for people getting started, including information about how to find a lawyer, but it’s general, as it should be.

      Finally, love the idea of offer info about guardianship for your audience! I blogged about this kind of personalization a few weeks ago (here’s the link: but your idea is a great additional example.

      Phyllis Freedman

      July 7, 2010 at 10:33 am

  6. Thanks, Phyllis.
    In my question about lawyers, what I’m trying to get some feedback on is this: Do organizations put this info on their own content pages and if so what are their criteria and experiences?
    I’ll check out the link you provided.
    Again, thanks for all the thought you put into these issues and for providing a forum for the exchange of ideas.

    John Ladd

    July 7, 2010 at 10:51 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: