I am happy to have Tony Martignetti, Esq as guest blogger to share very important insights on Planned Giving. I'm certain this blog is a great learning opportunity for nonprofit organizations and I'm grateful to Tony for sharing his wisdom.
8 Tips To Get Your Planned Giving Going
By Tony Martignetti, Esq.
In the midst of our recession, lots of nonprofits wish they had started a Planned Giving program 10 years ago. And don’t want their successors 10 years from now to wish the same.
Planned Giving is fundraising from your donors’ estate and retirement plans and these gifts bring cash to you at the donor’s death, in most cases. This is long-term fundraising, not suitable to fund next year’s salary budget or your 5-year capital plan. But, these gifts can be quite valuable and help you build rock solid relationships with your donors.
You don’t need a million dollar annual budget to get started in Planned Giving. Let’s shatter that myth right now! There’s plenty that smaller nonprofits can do to get in the game.
With small organizations in mind, here are 8 ideas to get you going:
Start with bequests. A charitable bequest in a donor’s will is one of the easiest ways someone can include you in their estate plan. Alongside bequests to spouse, children, grandchildren and other loved ones, there is a gift to your organization. Someone who puts you next to their grandchildren really loves your work. They love it so much, that they’ve probably been giving to you consistently through the years. Which leads to my next tip.
Look for age and giving consistency. Promote bequests to those who are 55 years or older and have strong consistency in their giving. Pay no attention to the size of their gifts. If you have someone who has given just $10 a year, and they’ve been doing that for, say, 8 of the past 10 years, they are a great prospect for a gift in their will. They have always thought of you, year after year, and they are likely to think of you in their will—if you ask. Some of our clients have had consistent, low-level donors for 20 or 30 years. Those are outstanding prospects!
Sure, larger consistent donors are also strong prospects, but don’t ignore your small, consistent donors. I want to shatter the myth that estate plan gifts are only for the wealthy. Enormous gifts make the headlines (like Joan Kroc’s $1 billion bequest to the Salvation Army several years ago), but the vast majority of estate gifts come from committed donors of modest means.
Maybe stop with bequests. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. For lots of organizations, a bequest marketing program IS their Planned Giving program—and that is quite respectable. For every nonprofit, regardless of size, bequests are around 85% of their planned gifts anyway. Bequests are the bedrock of any planned giving effort, so if you need to stop there because of budget and time constraints, that should not stop you from getting in the game. Here are a few more bequest marketing ideas:
Start with your board. For any new initiative, board support leads the way. Look for 100% participation from your board members, irrespective of their age. Even trustees under 55 can put you in their will. These are (or should be) your most committed donors, those who most love, admire and support your work. You should be able to brag to all your constituents that each board member has included the organization in their will.
Use direct mail. For reaching your broader bequest prospect pool, use direct mail if your budget allows. There is nothing stronger than a heartfelt, sincere testimonial letter from someone who has included your nonprofit in their will already (a board member, perhaps), to appeal to your loyal, long-term donors to do the same. If you don’t yet have someone to sign a testimonial, a letter from the executive director can be persuasive.
Make it personal. If you use direct mail, personalize your letters. That means using “Dear Mr./Ms./Mrs./Miss/Dr.” and staying away from “Dear friend.” A person’s will is a sensitive and personal matter and your letter should convey that.
Use all communications. If you have a newsletter, put in a sidebar to encourage bequests. Do the same in your annual report. You might include your legal name and federal tax ID number (also called an Employer Identification Number, or EIN). That way people can act on their own by sharing that information with their attorney when they prepare or revise their will. Including short appeals in materials you’re already planning to send will save money on printing and postage and still get the word out.
Say “thank you.” When a donor informs you that they have included you in their will, write another heartfelt letter—this time to say “thank you.” Then work to keep them close to the organization so they don’t change their mind. (Nationally, only about 6% of bequest donors change their minds, but you don’t want your donors to be among them.) Make sure your planned gift donors get regular communications from you, and are invited to events. If you find yourself reaching 10 donors, think about starting a recognition society. After getting permission, list their names in your annual report, on the same page where you have that sidebar encouraging more bequest gifts.
Your small nonprofit need not be intimidated by Planned Giving. You can have a very credible program that starts—and maybe ends—with bequests. I am writing a six-article series on Planned Giving for Guidestar this year. Here is my second article if you want to follow along.
Tony Martignetti, Esq., Martignetti Planned Giving Advisors, LLC
© 2010, Martignetti Planned Giving Advisors, LLC
Tony Martignetti, Esq. is managing director of Martignetti Planned Giving Advisors, LLC, a planned giving consultancy that works with a wide range of educational, cultural, advocacy, social service, religious, and healthcare institutions to create donor opportunities by building planned gift programs where they don’t exist. You can find him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.