by George Rattin, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions
I have learned several important lessons by receiving planned gifts. My first experience receiving a planned gift was early in my Development Career. I reacted like many inexperienced development officers and celebrated as if this was an unexpected Christmas gift from a stranger. What I soon learned was quite to the contrary. Though it was true that this gift was unexpected and cause for celebration, it did not come from a stranger. It was a very intentional final gift made by a regular supporter of our organization as a way to show, even in death, his support. I later learned that it was the urging of his estate planning lawyer that caused this donor to consider supporting organizations important to him during his life with a planned gift made through his estate plan.
- Lesson #1 – Planned Gifts are the result of an estate plan. Who is informing our donors about these possibilities?
Later in my career, I had the opportunity to meet a woman and develop a relationship with her because she had not only made a provision to support the organization in her estate plan, but she also told the organization. I have learned to appreciate this last point–telling the institution. By informing us of her estate plans, we had the opportunity to learn what was important to her and why she supported my organization. Over time we learned events were not important to her. She wouldn’t attend and was not interested. However, stopping by for cup of coffee (and bringing along some sweet rolls) and discussing what was new in her life and in the life of the organization was important and showed this donor that she had indeed invested with a group that shared her interest and wanted to develop a mutual relationship.
2. Lesson #2 – Ask your donors to let you know when they have put your organization in their estate plan. Then establish a relationship that meets the donors needs as well as your organizations. The donor has already let you know his/her intention. How will you show that donor that they have made a smart investment with an organization that listens, appreciates and is interested in more than just the gift?
Later in my career, I learned to be more proactive and established several planned giving programs at organizations I served. I learned that it is important to share information. Share, not only the fact that you have a program, but also how a donor might benefit from making a planned gift for your organization. Then follow this up with real stories of those who have done the same. Communication is key to seeking planned gifts. Not only should you share information, but you should ask people to let you know if they are interested in learning more. Do this in print. Do this during face-to-face visits. Just do this!
3. Lesson #3 – Two-way communication is key. Provide information that shows the impact and benefits to the donor and organization of making a planned gift and ask your constituents if they are interested in learning more about this subject.
Planned gifts can transform organizations, but they can also provide great satisfaction to donors. Gifts made through estate plans can often allow people to make gifts they were unable to during their lifetime or to make capstone gifts that underscore those causes most important to them throughout their life. If you focus on an understanding that planned gifts come from careful and thoughtful planning, asking people to let you know and focusing on building a relationship that is donor-centered and two-way, you will be off to a good start and will be able to provide a great gift to your supporters
Let us know what planned giving lessons you have learned by responding to the post.