The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

Archive for the ‘Bequests’ Category

Low/no cost planned giving marketing

with 2 comments

I’m always on the lookout for low/no cost ways to get our message out.  Here’s one that impressed me.  Imagine leaving it behind after donor visits or enclosing it with a proposal, a thank you note or any other correspondence you’re having with a donor or prospect.



Written by Phyllis Freedman

July 6, 2010 at 11:51 pm

Personalizing your planned giving marketing: a bequest case study

leave a comment »

Have you seen the provocative new campaign for PETA that features the late Bea Arthur?  Apparently the campaign was funded by a bequest in her will and typically for PETA is controversial.  But apparently Arthur’s son approved the copy. I like the ad because it’s totally in keeping with PETA’s in-your-face approach and communicates in a very effective way the power of a bequest to keep the donor’s passion alive.

Written by Phyllis Freedman

June 15, 2010 at 11:49 pm

Barriers to bequest giving.

leave a comment »

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

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

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

Counting planned gifts.

with one comment

Jim Roehm, of The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, posted a comment last week asking for examples of  “real-world experience in the best practices of counting planned gifts during comprehensive campaigns.”  So, to gather some examples for Jim, I posted a query to the gift-pl list-serve of the PPP.

As always with the gift-pl list-serve, colleagues across the country were generous with their insights and experience.  Before I share their examples, I do want to cite two formal resources for policies on counting gifts that were suggested: chapter eleven in “The Art of Planned Giving” by Doug White and the PPP Counting Guidelines

Now to the real-world feedback.  I kicked off the discussion by describing the Campaign for Texas, underway at the University of Texas at Austin.  Jeff Glosser graciously shared their policy:  “All gifts from donors are counted to the Campaign for Texas. This includes all revocable planned gifts made during the campaign period. We will disclose the value of revocable planned gifts for donors that have reached the age of 60 by August 31, 2014 (the end of the campaign) in our summary campaign reports.  We will use market value to report the total of revocable planned gifts to the campaign.”

From the gift pl list-serve there was back and forth about what is meant by “counting” especially with respect to revocable gifts.  The consensus:  revocable gifts can be counted for purposes of describing the campaign’s success but those same gifts are not routinely counted for accounting purposes.

A number of practitioners weighed in with specific examples.  I’ve summarized them as Counting Gifts Examples.

Thanks to Jim for posing the question and kudos to everyone who responded.  I love the fact that we’re all trying to advance our profession by sharing knowledge so readily.


P.S.  The gift-pl list-serve is another great benefit of PPP membership.