The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

Posts Tagged ‘IRA Gifts

Counting planned gifts.

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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.


Why do newsletters work?

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Traditional planned giving newsletters, mailed in an envelope with a reply card and cover letter, continue to be the very best vehicle for identifying qualified legacy prospects.  I have personally been involved in attempts to use letters with brochures, letters inviting donors to join the legacy society, self-mailer newsletters and postcards for this purpose but in each case these options yielded results short of tried-and-true newsletters.  Most of these alternatives are motivated by a desire to find a lower cost alternative to newsletters but the bottom line is that they are not cost-effective if they don’t produce the best and most leads.

The exception to this is postcards, with confidential reply cards part of the format, that offer gift annuities or year-end IRA rollover gifts.  I think it’s the immediacy of the transaction in these cases that make a postcard a good vehicle for this purpose.

But the question remains:  why do newsletters work so well?  I have a theory.  I used to manage a gift catalog for a nonprofit where I once worked. One of the rules of catalog marketing is to offer a wide variety of products at a wide variety of price points in the hope that the largest number of recipients will find something they are willing to buy at a price they are willing to pay.  I think the same logic works in planned giving newsletters.

Because we know that donors are at different life stages and at different points in their estate planning process, newsletters provide enough real estate (space) to cover a wide range of topics, giving donors across the spectrum a better chance of finding information that is relevant.  Maybe that’s why they work so well, or at least better than anything else I’ve tried so far.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

January 11, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Planned giving marketing that baffles me.

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I should probably start a category of posts that discuss things about planned giving marketing that baffle me.  I’ve already touched on the lack of cover letters with newsletters and the fact that some organizations don’t even call their legacy society members once a year.  I submit as an addition to the list the fact that many organizations spend what I consider to be an inordinate amount of time on complex gifts rather than emphasizing the simplest gifts a donor can make and, I might add, the types of gifts that are most commonly made.

Maybe CRUTs and CLTs are the most interesting types of gifts planners can work on and I’m sure that’s true for the lawyers in our profession, but for those of us advising nonprofits on how to broaden their pool of legacy donors and increase income from planned gifts, spending valuable money and real estate (I mean space in a newsletter or brochure) on rare gift types seems to me to be counter-productive.

The webinar I wrote about yesterday was a good example of this.  Although the speakers made passing mention of bequests and spent some time on stock gifts, the majority of time was spent on CRTs, CRATs, CLTs and life estate gifts with a term of years.  Even in a changed environment, these types of gifts are only relevant for a very small segment of our donors.

Why, then, and here’s the thing that baffles me, don’t we spend more time talking about the easiest gifts to make:  bequests, gifts of life insurance and gifts from retirement accounts? All three are due at death and thus require no outright cash to make and, in the case of gifts of life insurance and retirement benefits, only require the donor to complete a change of beneficiary designation form to execute.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

September 29, 2009 at 11:38 pm