4 Reasons Planned Giving Is A Jealous Mistress

Bambulka courtesy of M.A.R.I.O.N, on Flickr
Planned Giving does not like to share its affection with other fundraising work. This job post from Twitter reminds me it troubles me to see Planned Giving as part of a split-job responsibility:

NEW JOB!! Development Assoc-Corp/Fdn Rltns & Planned Giving, XXXXX University, Somewhere, USA (bit.ly link omitted)

I’ve got 4 reasons why pairing Planned Giving with other fundraising responsibilities hurts your PG program:

  1. The “other” has shorter deadlines. Whatever it’s paired with, the other fundraising responsibility will have more immediate deadlines, like in the example above. That means PG doesn’t get the attention it needs. Promotion is ignored and relationships aren’t cultivated. The worst combination I’ve seen is with annual fund. In the fourth quarter, the goals are weekly. How much PG do you think gets done in those three months–and the hectic planning leading up to them?
  2. The “other” yields cash sooner. A planned gift nearly always means cash to your nonprofit at the death of the donor. The exceptions are IRA rollovers and the rare charitable lead trust. Take the annual fund pairing. Cash comes in the door often within weeks of a solicitation, and certainly that year. You can wait decades for money to come from the planned gift. If the fundraiser is evaluated on money raised in the year, will PG get much attention? The answer to this is balanced and sophisticated performance evaluation criteria. I haven’t seen it for split-job fundraisers.
  3. The administration deceives itself. Having declared Planned Giving to be in someone’s title, the administration and board are satisfied they’ve “got Planned Giving covered.” But because it gets short shrift (see 1 and 2 above), PG isn’t covered. It’s largely ignored.
  4. PG never gets its equivalent share of the title. If it’s half the title, as in Director of Major and Planned Gifts, it won’t get 50% of the fundraiser’s attention and time. I once saw “Director of Annual Fund, Foundation Relations and Planned Giving” at a college. That’s silly, for the reasons above.

I don’t presume every organization can afford an employee devoted to Planned Giving. Such a presumption would also be silly. But expectations must align with reality. I see gross misalignment, because administrators and boards don’t recognize the jealous side of Planned Giving.

12 thoughts on “4 Reasons Planned Giving Is A Jealous Mistress

  1. I’m not implying that, Pat, because I don’t believe it. All fundraisers cultivate relationships. Planned Giving can be part of one person’s responsibilities, but when paired–or tripled–with other work, it will not realize its potential.

    Thanks for subscribing to my blog.

  2. Tony,

    Are you implying that major gift officers and corporate/foundation relations folks don’t cultivate relationships? Planned Giving is a tool for helping our donors make gifts. Shouldn’t be a silo. Do I think you need subject matter experts in planned gift tools? Absolutely, but let’s start thinking about how as donor-centered fundraisers, it maybe doesn’t matter so much what you are called, but how you pull in the right players and tools to help our donors accomplish their philanthropy.

  3. Rich: My concern would be that the balance was weighted in favor of the outright gift fundraising, with respect to your time. Bravo if you devoted time based on potential, rather than deadlines.

  4. Pippa: The attention has to be there. But also expectations need to be reasonable. The demands of other responsibilities are real.

  5. Jim: I love that you were encouraging all development officers to open the door to a planned gift conversation. The more people developing appropriate prospects the more potential there is to close gifts. I routinely encourage this in seminars.

  6. Lynn: Singling out your last sentence, I very much agree. That includes the income tax charitable deduction. It’s got value, but for the vast majority of donors it is not the primary motivation.

  7. Having managed a very successful fundraising team I believe that Planned Giving must be a dedicated position. Its’ focus, priorities and time lime are so different from other fundraising methods that it is extremely difficult to stay on top of your prospects and donors while handling other fundraising responsibilities. I know first hand- I tried it!

  8. PG is NOT a fundraiser, it’s a long term Development issue. Fundraisers are sales transactions, you buy a candy bar and the school gets a buck. Development plans are relationship based and are really more about philanthropic issues. People gift because they believe in your mission and vision of the future, not because they receive something in return.

  9. Good points all. I agree that a truly successful PG initiative benefits from well-trained, highly skilled and focused staff who also have the benefit of at least several board members who are also committed to the initiative.

    But a dedicated planned giving initiative is all that it takes to succeed, even in a one-person shop. In my last full-time position, I was the entire development office (other than the data entry staff). Our planned giving initiative yielded 60% of our annual budget, and yet I spent 90% of my time on other fundraising, marketing and “education” initiatives. My predecessor setup the PG initiative, and she spent even less time on it. We thoroughly embedded PG marketing into all communications media – including the annual appeal. Ours was a simple initiative, using CGAs as the traffic-builder, but focusing mostly on guiding donors toward bequests. We did not have the sophistication to heavily market trusts, but when a trust opportunity arose, I relied on outside help (from the bank that managed our CGAs) to help me navigate these conversations with prospects.

    I relied on off-the-shelf products from several vendors to manage the CGAs and produce marketing and education materials I used to engage donor prospects. The effort was not nearly as well tailored or focused as it could have been, but I was pleased to see that at minimum, donors who are strong supporters of the mission did not need a lot of coaxing to provide for the organization in estate planning. It was an easier “sell” than a major cash gift in “real time.” I’m sure we left “money on the table,” but I would strongly encourage every development officer to pursue planned gifts, even in the most basic manner. It doesn’t take many 5 and 6 figure checks to convince the board and executive team that this is time well spent. And one “two-comma” check can be VERY convincing.

    Jim Moore
    CommUlinks of Colorado

  10. I think unless you work for a large enough organisation to have an employee specifically for such things you do have to multi task, and make sure you put things like planned giving and development as a top priority, otherwise yes, they will always fall to the bottom of the pile.

  11. I worked for sixteen years in dual role of doing planned giving and current fundraising. While I enjoy your provocative point about the jealous nature of planned giving, I experienced the two as giving balance to my job. I enjoyed the long range thinking and relationship that were part of planned giving and the immediacy of our current fundraising. Balancing them required rigorous planning.

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