The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

Posts Tagged ‘Bequests

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

Learning the art of asking for a planned gift: Part I

with one comment

Whenever I meet someone new and tell them that I’m a fundraiser, the immediate response is “Eeeuww, it must be the hardest thing in the world to ask people for money.”  “No,” I say, “it’s actually easy when you know how to do it and you view it as helping a donor fulfill his or her aspiration to make a difference instead of thinking of it separating a donor from his/her money.”

Even though I have my answer at hand, I’ll admit to you that asking for money is hard, if you haven’t been trained or you’ve been incorrectly trained in the art of asking.  Too often gift planners are trained in the technical aspects of gifts and aren’t taught to start with identifying donor financial needs and philanthropic interests.   We ask donors lots of questions but not the ones that elicit the information we need to be successful.

At a recent National Capital Gift Planning Council luncheon, John McKee, Senior Director of Gift Planning at the University of Maryland Foundation, spoke about how changing the focus of training for his gift officers to non-technical, relationship-building skills had transformed their results.  Much has been written on this topic, including a good article in the 4th Quarter 2008 Journal of Gift Planning, “How Old Are You and Did You Know You Could?” by Alexandra P. Brovey and Patricia L. Roenigle.  You can download a pdf of the article here (in two Parts to facilitate downloading): How Old Are You Part I and How Old Are You Part II.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

June 7, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Director of First Impressions.

with one comment

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.

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.