The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

Archive for May 2010

Director of First Impressions.

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Alva is not just the receptionist at one of my client organizations.  She’s the Director of First Impressions & Stewardship.  The other day, while I was waiting to go upstairs to a meeting, I had the opportunity to overhear a few of her conversations with callers.

With her sunny voice and helpful attitude she provided good stewardship to everyone who called.  One donor called asking for a staff person’s cell phone number.  Alva suggested that the donor leave a voice mail message “since all staff frequently check voice mail while away.”  Instead of telling the donor, “I can’t give out a cell phone number” she turned what could have been a negative into a positive.  In response to another caller, I watched as Alva picked up what looked like a laminated fact sheet that gave her the answers to the callers questions and a referral number.

As you can probably tell if you’re a regular reader of this blog, I’m obsessed with stewardship:  the absence of it and also citing examples that are good.  I honestly think it’s one of the most pressing problems we face as gift planners. With only 60% of PPP members surveyed reporting that they have a formal stewardship plan, it’s no surpise that stewardship gets short shrift.  That’s in spite of the fact that research shows that if properly stewarded, bequest size goes up exponentially.

I guess it’s our obsession with the gift, rather than what happens after the gift.  Even though, as Penelope Burke says, “the gift is just a symbol of the relationship, it’s not the relationship.”

Who answers your phone?  Is it even a human being?  Is that person (or persons) armed with guidance about his or her importance to the organization and with FAQs or other information needed to be helpful?


P.S.  I’ll be speaking on stewardship at the Bridge Conference in DC, July 27th.  I hope I’ll see you there.  For those who can’t attend, I’ll post my slides after the presentation.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

May 25, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Barriers to bequest giving.

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That’s the title of an interesting article in the May/June 2010, issue of Advancing Philanthropy, the magazine of the AFP.  The author, Russell James, describes an AFP-sponsored study of donors who reported committing to a charitable bequest.  After the death of the respondent, family members were contacted to determine how the estate had actually been divided.  The results were surprising.

Of the people who had indicated that they had made a charitable provision in their will, 59% produced no charitable transfer at death.  There were some obvious reasons:  people changed their minds, for example, but the authors theorize an important reason for the discrepancy. . . the prevalence of assets being passed on through “transfer on death” or “pay on death” designations and thus outside the probate process, undoing the donor’s plans.

What to do?

1.  Trusts solve the problem since all assets are titled to the trust but many people don’t want to go to the expense or trouble to create a trust.

2.  Use your marketing to remind donors that assets can be transferred to your organization via a transfer or payable on death provision, essentially moving your gift outside probate.

3.  Educate donors about rephrasing percentage bequests to be “a dollar amount equal to ___percent of my adjusted gross estate for federal estate tax purposes.”  If the language is “___% of my estate” that usually means a percent of the probate estate, which will likely be lower.


P.S.  Here’s the full article, Barriers to Bequest Giving.

Written by Phyllis Freedman

May 24, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Planned giving with unusual assets.

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Bryan Clontz, President of Charitable Solutions, gave an eye-opening talk at last week’s National Capital Gift Planning Council Planning Giving Days.  According to Bryan, “more than half of affluent investors’ assets are held in non-cash assets; cash only represents 3-5%.”  Yet, of the $300 billion in donations last year, non-cash assets are estimated to be 3% or less.  Seems like the numbers are upside down.

So, why are we not spending some of our precious marketing real estate talking about unusual, non-cash gifts?  (examples include obvious things like art and collectibles but also unexpected assets such as patents, mineral and timber rights, and a seat on the NYSE).

It may be because it can be complicated to structure such a gift so that it’s advantageous to the nonprofit and to the donor.  It may also be, according to Bryan, that nonprofits are burdened by bureaucracy, in the form of gift acceptance policies/procedures that turn off nonprofits and donors alike.

Sounds like we need to get out of the way of a huge opportunity.  Guys like Bryan can facilitate such gifts and make the acceptance of these assets, and the resulting cash, easy.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

May 18, 2010 at 11:56 pm

21st century donor engagement.

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Leave it to Starbucks to teach us yet again about creating an exceptional customer brand experience.  Their Passion Panel is an interesting model for what engagement could look like for today’s gift planning donors especially Baby Boomers.  When we want to offer donors the opportunity to deepen their engagement with us, a key component of both exceptional fundraising results and good stewardship, why not offer a innovative online engagement program?


Low & No-Cost PG Marketing.

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I’ll be speaking this week at the Planned Giving Days Conference of the National Capital Gift Planning Council.  My topic is getting the most bang for your buck from planned giving marketing and following the conference I’ll be posting my presentation to this blog.  In the meantime, here are just a few of my slides with tips for Low & No Cost PG Marketing.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

May 11, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Survey on gift annuities: the results are in.

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The American Council on Gift Annuities has just released its 2009 Survey of Charitable Gift Annuities and there are some interesting findings worth noting.  Nearly 600 organizations responded to the ACGA survey and while there was skewing toward institutions of higher education, the sample size is sufficiently large and the data sufficiently cross-tabbed to still find relevance even if you’re not a college or university.

Here are some of the statistics I found interesting:

1.  Nearly 72% of immediate annuities are issued to donors 80 or older.  In fact, only 9% of annuities are issued to donors 70 or younger.  This is clearly partly a function of who we market annuities to but it seems to be more a function of who is interested in annuities.  If that’s true, and if you’re on a tight budget, then marketing annuities to donors 71+ will capture nearly all of the most likely prospects.

2.  Most annuities are funded with cash (80% of organizations reported that gifts of cash represented between 76% and 100% of the assets used to fund gift annuities) and most are for one life (72.4%).  I have long advocated for simplifying our marketing messages.  These findings suggest to me that charts with one life and two life rates are unnecessary and may be confusing.  Similarly, diagrams or language that describe the varied assets that can be used to fund a gift annuity are also unnecessarily complicating.

3.  The average size of gift annuities varied widely by type of organization, with, not surprisingly, public colleges and universities reporting an average of $78,548 and arts organizations reporting one-third that amount, at $22,195.  When you’re writing an example to include in marketing materials or publishing a story of a donor who created an annuity with you, try to use examples that closely track with your own average amount.

For me, the other important takeaway is the importance of tracking your own statistics.  Not only are your own data useful for your marketing and forecasting but with this report in hand, you can see how you’re doing compared to the sector.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

May 10, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Marketing estate gifts to Hispanics.

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A reader sent me an e-mail asking whether I had any knowledge of organizations successfully marketing planned gifts to Hispanics.  I don’t, but I promised to post an inquiry here.  Anyone care to share information about success or lack thereof in marketing planned gifts to this growing segment of our population?


Written by Phyllis Freedman

May 5, 2010 at 11:45 pm