The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

Archive for March 2010

Stewardship done right–by the White House

leave a comment »

Yesterday’s Washington Post featured a wonderful cover story about the process and people behind the way the White House handles the flood of communication from the public to President Obama.  The end result is a daily selection of ten communications forwarded by staff to the President that provide his daily glimpse beyond what he calls “the presidential bubble.”

As you can imagine, the numbers are staggering:  50 staff, 25 interns and a rotation of 1,500 volunteers are needed to respond to 100,000 e-mails, 14,000 phone calls and 63,000 letters and faxes per week.

What’s the relevance to gift planning?  Alot.  Our donors are our constituents.  Is your organization disciplined about responding to inquiries?  In a timely manner?  With a warmly written letter or e-mail or a warm person on the other end of the phone who has been trained to talk with donors?  Do you categorize the responses so you can keep tabs on what’s on donor minds and create a feedback loop that informs future donor communication?  Does the management team regularly read a sampling of letters so they’re in touch with what your donors are thinking?

I realize the President has tremendous resources at his disposal but it’s all about making it a priority.  If you scale down the numbers to what might be needed for your organization, and you commit to delivering excellent service to your donors, you can do it, too.  And, if you can’t get all the way there, make a start.  It will pay dividends.



Written by Phyllis Freedman

March 31, 2010 at 11:34 pm

PG Website Tip #3

leave a comment »

I’ve previously written about how hard it is to find contact information on many nonprofit websites.  Now I’m taking my rant to the next logical place:  how hard it is to understand the contact information once you find it.  No kidding.

Take a look at your gift planning web pages.  You probably have a “Contact Us” or “Meet our Gift Planning Team” link.  But once there, if you’re an organization of any size, you have a laundry list of staff names, titles and contact info.  What’s a donor to do?  Who are they supposed to call?  You could add a note to each listing indicating the type of inquiry this person should receive (Call Tom for questions about gift annuities, for example) or you could just keep it simple and prominently note the person who will handle all inquiries.  Separated graphically on the page you can list the rest of the team.  But make it a 5 second effort for the donor to find the information he or she is seeking.

You may also have a “Request Information” page on your site.  There again, simplicity is key, as I’ve said previously.  Don’t make the donor read through lots of esoteric and rare options (bargain sale, anyone?) to try to request information on bequests and or gift annuities, the things we market most often.  Think of your information request page as an online version of a reply card you might send with a newsletter.  The simplicity you achieve on your reply cards should be copied online.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

March 30, 2010 at 6:50 am

More on bequest tick boxes.

leave a comment »

In response to a comment I received from a reader on my recent post about the bequest “tick box” debate, I’m attaching here the issue of Planned Giving Today where the article appeared.  Planned Giving Today

Regards, Phyllis

Written by Phyllis Freedman

March 25, 2010 at 8:05 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Nominations now being accepted.

leave a comment »

The APF-DC Chapter hosts Philanthropy Day each year in the fall.  On that day, the organization recognizes individuals who are making a difference in our sector.  Nominations are now being accepted, through April 30th, in the following categories:

  • outstanding philanthropist

  • outstanding fundraising volunteer

  • outstanding corporate partner

  • outstanding foundation partner

  • outstanding fundraising professional

  • outstanding diversity leader

If you know someone deserving of this honor, I encourage you to submit a nomination.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

March 23, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

STOP including a bequest tick box on your appeal response forms.

with 3 comments

That’s the provocative title of a blog post from Jonathon Grapsas’ in which he puts forth the case that bequest checkboxes hurt direct mail response and revenue (he’s an Aussie working out of Canada on behalf of Pareto Fundraising, thus the use of the term “tick box”) .  Last fall, Planned Giving Today (PGT) published an article that included opinions from others in our field that contradict Jonathon’s assertion.  I want to go on record saying that I agree with Jonathon and have seen similar results.

And, while it may be true, as Mal Warwick points out in the PGT article, that one bequest is probably sufficient to compensate the organization for revenue foregone from the checkbox, the reality is that most organizations still operate in silos and are not enlightened enough to see the long-term or overall organizational objective. While we try to break down those silos and build donor-centric organizations we’re better off not hurting direct mail results by insisting on a checkbox in appeals.


P.S.  Mal makes some other great points.  He says “I would not recommend offering information if:  (1) all you’ve got to send is a simple off-the-shelf booklet along the lines of ‘Do you have a will?’ such as those provided by any one of several established companies; (2) if you respond with a flood of complex information about all the tax-avoidance and income-generating possibilities of planned giving; and/or (3) if the examples you provide to donors highlight the multi-million-dollar givers.”  To that, I would add (4) or if you’re not prepared to do prompt and personal follow-up.

Three little words.

leave a comment »

There is lots of pressure on gift planners these days to produce results. By results, I mean closed gifts.  At the same time, donors are increasingly skittish about making commitments, even commitments that aren’t due until death.  What to do?

According to management guru Tom Peters, most successful sales conversations don’t end by closing the sale.  According to Peters, the goal of a sales call (or in our case, a visit or call with a donor) is to “have your relationship with the customer be better at the end of the sales conversation than it was at the beginning.” He says, “Successful selling is usually not about going for the close. It’s about advancing your relationship.”  And, if advancing that relationship can help you uncover the underlying resistance to the gift, you’ll be that much closer to removing the obstacle and ultimately closing the gift.

One effective way to do this is to use these three incredibly powerful little words: tell me more.  Try it the next time a donor raises an objection or expresses an interest in an aspect of your work.  According to Charles Green’s Trust Matters blog, ‘tell me more’  is a “simple and elegant way to invite someone to share information with you. Distinct from a targeted, intellectually-impressive question, ‘tell me more’ implies an absence of time pressure, agenda (as in motives), and a desire to show off.  Its subtext: The agenda is yours, my time is yours, and my focus is devoted to you, not me. Its beauty is in its simplicity and its focus on the <donor>.”


Written by Phyllis Freedman

March 17, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Trendwatching: Value & Simplicty

with one comment

The New York Times Business Day section recently offered clues to the current donor (consumer) environment.  The first clue was an article about Lowe’s, the home improvement store, and their coming ad campaign focusing on value and service.  Consumers, Lowe’s believes, want to feel as though their money is being well-spent and they want “knowledgeable, helpful and friendly” sales staff who simplify the home improvement process for them.  On the back page of that section, the Times published it’s weekly “Most Wanted.”  It’s a snapshot of what ad space is being purchased and which magazines, movies, and music are most popular.   What’s the top magazine by growth in ad pages (which by the way correlate with readership)?  Real Simple.  What’s one of the top ad buys by growth percentage?  Space in the Sunday newspaper coupon section.

These cues are consistent with what we’re hearing about the lasting impact on giving of the economic turmoil of the past eighteen months.  For a long time to come, value and simplicity will be king.

In our gift planning communication it’s even more important than ever to communicate the impact of legacy gifts and to keep our messages simple.  I’ve written before about the need to do a better job of communicating impact.  After recent reading of how the estate tax uncertainty and the Roth IRA conversion opportunity are being communicated to donors indicates to me that in the category of “keep it simple” we have a long way to go.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

March 9, 2010 at 11:46 pm