Posts tagged ‘bequest’

April 10, 2020

Legacy Fundraising: The Best of Times or the Worst of Times?

Over the past couple of weeks, social media, the blogosphere, and countless webinars have pondered the question: Is this the best or worst of times for legacy fundraising? Unfortunately, despite the high volume of opinions circulating, a view grounded in science has yet to emerge. So, philanthropy researcher Russell N. James III, JD, PhD, CFP® and I teamed up to prepare a special white paper for you that analyzes the current legacy-giving environment and reveals to you a path forward that we base on fact rather than emotional whim.

This blog post provides you with the full paper, nearly 5,000 words, with all of its insights and tips. In addition, you can download the PDF version for FREE. You may want to share the white paper PDF with your CEO, CFO, and board leadership.

Because of the unusual length of this post, I won’t offer any additional introductory comments other than to say that Russell and I are available for speaking engagements, training sessions, consultation, and interviews to address this and other relevant subjects. For more information, please contact me.

Now, here is the complete white paper:

 

Legacy Fundraising: The Best of Times or the Worst of Times?

Russell N. James III, JD, PhD, CFP® and Michael J. Rosen

The death media currently inundate us with panic-inducing news. Ubiquitous reports about the spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Daily death tolls. Images of people in masks or complete hazmat suits. Talk of overwhelmed hospitals. News of quarantined regions and nations.

What should a legacy fundraiser do in the midst of a societal crisis? Stop communicating altogether? Make a last-minute push to get into a donor’s Will before it’s too late? Something in between? All of the above?

To get some guidance, it helps to start with a bit of social-science theory, a look at recent financial history, and early empirical data.

Social-Science Theory

We start with social-science theory because it’s actually quite useful to first understand what we know about how people react to reminders of death.

An entire field of experimental psychology focuses on this very topic. Scientists call it Terror Management Theory. This field has produced many hundreds of experimental results. Therefore, we know quite a lot about what happens when you remind people that they are going to die.

There are many technical books and papers on the subject. Google Scholar lists 12,500 of them. Here’s a quick summary. Death is a problem. People use two solutions:  1) ignore the problem, or 2) live on after death. Allow us to explain.

The Two Defenses to Death Reminders

People respond to death reminders with two stages of defense. The first stage (proximal) defense is avoidance. Avoidance comes from a desire to suppress the reminder. This suppression can be expressed in many ways. For example, it might involve physically moving away from the reminder (e.g., avoiding strolling past a hospital or cemetery when taking a walk). It might involve denigrating a mortality reminder’s validity or personal applicability (e.g., it can’t happen to me). It might be dismissing the subject with humor (e.g., the film Death at a Funeral).

The second stage (distal) defense is pursuit of symbolic immortality or lasting social impact. When avoidance doesn’t work, then we must somehow deal with our own earthly impermanence. We deal with this by latching on to those things that will remain after we are gone. In other words, I may disappear, but some part of my identity – my family, my values, my in-group, my people, my story, my causes – will remain.

People don’t treat personal death reminders in the same way they treat other pieces of objective information. In legacy fundraising, it has always been important to understand this. These two underlying defensive responses help to explain how people will respond.

Death Just Got Way More Offensive

In experiments, personal death reminders ramp up avoidance responses. The more death reminders, the more avoidance people will exhibit. Right now, COVID-19 news engulfs our audiences in personal death reminders. For many people, this will make any death-related communications aversive.

(Interestingly, people will gladly read the latest news headlines as a means of pursuing avoidance. People hunger for details on how to avoid the death risk. They will support strong action that promises the same. Others may even pursue avoidance by putting unwarranted faith in untested treatments or unproven protocols.)

In addition to people living in an environment that stimulates greater levels of death avoidance, current conditions cause individuals to feel less of an emotional sense of wellbeing.

Dr. Jen Shang, a philanthropic psychologist and co-founder of the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, among other social scientists, believes that wellbeing involves three essential characteristics:

  • autonomy – a sense of control
  • connectedness – the quantity and quality of relationships
  • competence – effectiveness

The more autonomous, connected, and competent people feel, the greater sense of personal wellbeing they will feel. Conversely, when people feel those qualities eroding, they will feel a decline in wellbeing.

In addition to the physical health risks associated with the novel coronavirus pandemic, people are experiencing psychological stress. Many individuals feel that current events are overwhelming them, knocking them out of their routines, and causing them to lose control of their professional and personal lives. With the uncertainty of the near-term, it’s not surprising that people would feel they have lost a great deal of control over their lives.

As the pandemic leads government officials to suggest or order people to stay at home, practice social distancing, and limit even essential activities such as grocery shopping, people are losing their sense of connection to other people including neighbors, extended family members, friends, colleagues, and more.

During the coronavirus pandemic, people are grappling with their feeling of competency when facing new conditions. Many have set-up a home workspace for the first time. Others are learning new technologies to communicate more effectively with others.

People want to have a sense of wellbeing. The more autonomy, connectedness, and competency they feel, the better they will feel. Generally, people will seek to engage in behaviors that enhance their sense of wellbeing. Furthermore, they will appreciate individuals and organizations that help them obtain greater wellbeing.

So, what does all of this mean for legacy fundraising (i.e., a key type of planned giving)? To begin, it means the following:

  1. Legacy fundraising communications that “lead with death” need to be shelved.

Many fundraising professionals are accustomed to being direct. Being blunt. Making the ask. Making it early and often. That may be fine for some types of fundraising. While this type of approach was often less than ideal for legacy fundraising prior to the pandemic, this is even more true right now. This is not the time to lead with death. In normal times, this will create some pushback. In these times, expect it to create massive pushback.

Yes, you should absolutely communicate with your organization’s supporters. Moreover, those communications should be about delivering value to the donor. Through your outreach, you should strive to enhance each individual donor’s sense of wellbeing.

  1. Now is the time to be “top of mind.”

Most people tend to put off estate planning in normal times. For example, in the U.S., most adults over 50 have no Will or Trust documents. From what we know about avoidance, such delay is no surprise. But, from a massive longitudinal study in the U.S., we also know when those plans are made and changed. The typical triggers for planning fall into one of two camps, family structure changes or “death becomes real.” Family structure changes include marriage, divorce, birth of first child, birth of a first grandchild, and widowhood. “Death becomes real” includes diagnosis of cancer, heart disease, stroke, moving to a nursing home, or actually approaching death (measured retrospectively).

Right now, many people are living the “death becomes real” experience. Consequently, there is a major upsurge in Will document completions – particularly online. Some sites are reporting greater than 100 percent week-over-week increases in completed documents.1 The Remember a Charity website, which promotes legacy giving for the U.K. charity sector, has experienced twice as many people visiting its “Making A Will” page as would do so normally.2

As “death becomes real,” people are also increasingly expressing interest in life insurance.3 One online life insurance agency saw the most ever monthly applications and sales in March 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic gained traction. Another online life insurance agency saw an increase in applications of more than 50 percent since February.

We know from experimental research that the charitable component of an estate plan is, for many people, highly fluid. In one experiment with British solicitors (lawyers), simply asking the question, “Would you like to leave any money to charity?” more than doubled the share of people including charitable gifts in their Will documents. Even small alterations in the wording used to describe such gifts results in dramatic changes in both charitable intentions and actual document contents.

For a charity, being “top of mind” at the moment in which people are actually planning is absolutely critical. More people are planning right now than in any normal time. Clearly, this is the ideal time for your charity to be communicating about gifts in Wills and even beneficiary designations. However, the language of how you communicate is most critical.

When viewed through the social scientist’s lens of individual wellbeing, the enhanced interest in estate planning is not surprising. Drafting a Will or purchasing a life insurance policy is a way for someone to feel a sense of autonomy or control over the current situation. Through these actions, they can enhance the feeling of attachment from relationships with those they love as they make plans to take care of these people. When successfully achieving their estate planning objectives, including supporting values and causes that have been important in their lives, individuals will feel an elevated sense of competency. In other words, a major reason we now see a spike in interest in Wills and life insurance is that it gives people an enhanced sense of wellbeing.

If communications from charities also enhance a donor’s sense of wellbeing, organizations may find that their donors will have greater interest in supporting them with a commitment in a Will or through a life insurance beneficiary designation. In other words, helping a donor feel better may ultimately benefit the charity.

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

Is this the best time or the worst time to be communicating about legacy gifts? Actually, it is both.

People are planning like never before because they seek to take care of their families, usually the first priority of those doing estate planning even in the best of times. The challenge for charities is that we need to be at the top of their minds when people are ready to make their plans. It’s definitely the best time for legacy fundraising. Furthermore, by engaging people, fundraisers have an opportunity, like never before, to perform a real service by helping donors enhance their feeling of wellbeing.

On the other hand, talking about legacy planning can be offensive like never before. People are emotionally-poised to lash out strongly against such death reminders. Take one step in that direction and the risk-averse herd animal known as your executive director will be ready to end your career. It can very-well seem like the worst time for legacy fundraising, particularly when done the wrong way.

We’re not talking about opposing camps. Instead, individual donors are experiencing both of these paradoxical orientations to one degree or another.

The Direct Route is Closed. Now What?

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December 8, 2017

5 Mistakes that Could Cost You Year-End Donations

As year-end approaches, you are probably working feverishly to raise as much money as possible for your nonprofit organization. Unfortunately, you might be making some mistakes that could cost your charity enormous sums of potential donations.

Here are just five common ways you might unknowingly short-change your organization at this special time of year:

1.  Appeals by the Numbers.

Many of the year-end appeals that I receive focus on numbers. Often, the number is “31,” as in December 31. Other numbers tout the volume of people served or the amount of a challenge grant. As I wrote last week, numbers can tell part of an organization’s story; however, numbers can’t tell the full story.

For the most effective appeals, you will want to engage hearts and minds. While some numbers can be meaningful, telling an individual story makes your nonprofit’s work more relatable and easier to understand. Individual stories are also far more likely to engender an emotional response.

The Wounded Warrior Project is a great example of what I mean. The organization could tell us how many veterans suffer from PTSD and medical issues. The charity could simply tell us how many veterans they serve each year. Instead, the Wounded Warrior Project tells the story of a single veteran. The organization’s television appeals are mini-movies that tell us of a veteran’s war experience, the problem he or she came home with, and how the Wounded Warrior Project is improving the veteran’s life. You can watch one of the organization’s television spots by clicking here.

2.  Not Asking for Gifts of Stock and Other Planned Gifts.

If you want to maximize year-end giving, you must seek planned gifts. Planned giving allows donors to make more gifts and larger gifts than they might otherwise be able to do simply from their checkbook. This is great news for your charity. Even better news is that not all planned gifts are deferred gifts. Here are some types of planned gifts that will result in immediate cash for your organization:

Gifts of Stock. With the stock market in record territory, many Americans own appreciated securities. By contributing stock shares to your organization, a donor can make a generous gift, realize a charitable gift deduction, and avoid capital gains tax.

Gifts of Appreciated Property. As with stock, many individuals own appreciated real December 31st by TransGriot via Flickrestate, art, and collectibles that they can donate. Your organization can either use the item for mission fulfillment (i.e., a museum can accept a work of art for its collection), or the organization can sell the item and put the cash to good use. You’ll just need to be clear with your donor about which option you intend to exercise.

Gifts from Donor Advised Funds. An increasing number of Americans have established a DAF. Be sure to remind your donors that they can advise that a gift be made to your charity from their DAF account.

IRA Charitable Rollover. Since the U.S. Congress has made the IRA Charitable Rollover permanent, individuals who are age 70.5 or older can donate up to $100,000 from their IRA each year without having to recognize it as income.

Year-end is also a good time to ask for deferred planned gifts such as Gifts in a Will, Beneficiary Designations, and Trusts.

You can read more about planned giving options by clicking here.

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November 8, 2016

Are You Forgetting Something as Year-End Approaches?

It’s that time of year once again. #GivingTuesday and December 31 are fast approaching. All charities are looking for year-end donations. However, are you forgetting something important?

If you want to maximize year-end giving, you must seek planned gifts. Remember, not all planned gifts are deferred gifts; many are current contributions. Here are some types of planned gifts you should be asking for, even if you don’t have a formal planned giving program:

Gifts of appreciated stock or property (i.e.: real estate, art, collectibles, etc.):

By making a donation using appreciated stock or personal property, a donor can avoid capital gains tax and receive a charitable gift deduction. Because over half of Americans own stock (Gallup) and because the stock markets are at or near record highs, now is a great time for donors to contribute appreciated securities. Likewise, real estate values have generally seen significant rebounds since the Great Recession, meaning real estate gifts are an excellent option for some donors.

Gifts from a Donor Advised Fund:

Many donors have established a Donor Advised Fund. In 2014, there were over 238,000 Donor Advised Funds (National Philanthropic Trust, Donor Advised Fund Market Report 2015). DAFs “account for more than three percent of all charitable giving in the United States.”

pot-of-goldIf you’d like to learn more about how DAFs work, you can download the free FAQ sheet from DAF Direct by clicking here.

If you know that a donor has established a DAF, ask him to designate your charity for a grant. In your newsletter, include a story about a supporter who has given through her DAF. On your website, include a Donor Advised Fund widget to make it easy for your donors to designate a gift to your charity.

To see how International Planned Parenthood Federation / Western Hemisphere uses the DAF Direct widget, click here. To see how the UNICEF United States Fund has deployed the widget, click here. For information about how to get the Donor Advised Fund widget for your organization’s website, click here.

Gifts from an IRA Rollover:

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June 14, 2016

Happy Days are Here Again … for Now

Charitable giving in the USA reached a record high for the second year in a row, according to the newly released Giving USA 2016: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2015, a publication of Giving USA Foundation, researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

While the news is good, storm clouds are gathering on the horizon. You need to hear both the good and the troubling news. I’ve tried to distill the most relevant, overarching information for you and provide you with some tips to help you be more successful moving forward. While I would normally advise against sharing lots of statistics, I nevertheless think you’ll appreciate these numbers.

Source Pie Chart_June 13 2016Researchers estimate that giving totaled $373.25 billion in 2015.

That new peak in contributions represents a record level whether measured in current or inflation-adjusted dollars. In 2015, total giving grew 4.1 percent in current dollars (4.0 percent when adjusted for inflation) over 2014.

The revised inflation-adjusted estimate for total giving in 2014 was $359.04 billion, with current-dollar growth of 7.8 percent, and an inflation-adjusted increase of 6.1 percent.

Charitable contributions from all four sources — individuals, charitable bequests, corporations, foundations — went up in 2015, with those from individuals once again leading the way in terms of total dollar amount, at $264.58 billion. This follows the historical pattern seen over more than six decades.

Giving to eight of the nine nonprofit categories studied grew with only giving to foundations declining (down 3.8 percent in current dollars, down 4.0 percent adjusted for inflation).

Giving to the category of International Affairs — $15.75 billion — grew the most (up 17.5 percent in current dollars, up 17.4 percent adjusted for inflation).

Giving to the category Arts/Culture/Humanities — $17.07 billion — grew the second most (up 7.0 percent in current dollars, up 6.8 percent adjusted for inflation).

While the numbers are terrific, the story is really about more than that. Giving USA Foundation Chair W. Keith Curtis, president of the nonprofit consulting firm The Curtis Group, says:

If you look at total giving by two-year time spans, the combined growth for 2014 and 2015 hit double digits, reaching 10.1 percent when calculated using inflation-adjusted dollars. But, these findings embody more than numbers — they also are a symbol of the American spirit. It’s heartening that people really do want to make a difference, and they’re supporting the causes that matter to them. Americans are embracing philanthropy at a higher level than ever before.”

While the 2015 giving news is certainly positive, there are four points that indicate that the good news might be short lived:

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June 2, 2016

Avoid a Big Mistake: Stop Asking for Bequest Gifts!

Nonprofit organizations are making a big mistake. Many charities ask individuals to consider making a “Bequest Gift.” Of course, an even bigger mistake is not asking at all. However, there is a better way.

Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP, a leading philanthropy researcher based at Texas Tech University, reports that the latest research shows that asking Words that Work IIpeople to consider “Gifts in your will” generates far more interest. When asking prospects to consider a “Bequest Gift,” 18 percent responded, “I might be/am definitely interested.” By contrast, when prospects were asked to consider “Gifts in your will,” 28 percent expressed interest!

James will offer additional research-based insights in a FREE webinar, Words that Work II: The Phrases that Encourage Planned Giving, hosted by MarketSmart on Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at 2:00 PM EDT. Registration is required and space is limited so click here now.

During the webinar, you’ll get the following information:

  • How to describe bequest gifts and tax benefits in a way that will increase a person’s desire to learn more;
  • What elements of a charitable gift annuity advertisement make people want to get one;
  • What the latest data patterns say about trends in charitable estate planning;
  • The best “front door” phrase to get people to read about planned giving information;
  • Test results that showcase the responses to different charitable gift annuity advertising messages;
  • And much more of great interest and value!

In short, James’ webinar will provide you with powerful, practical insights that will help you enhance your planned giving results.

So, why is asking for a “Bequest Gift” less effective than asking for “Gifts in your will”?

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June 19, 2015

Are You Throwing Away Planned Gift Opportunities?

Since 1974, Charitable Bequest gifts have totaled seven to nine percent of overall philanthropic giving.

In 2014, Bequest revenue totaled $28.13 billion, accounting for eight percent of overall giving and an increase over 2013 of 13.6 percent (adjusted for inflation). These figures come from the recently released Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014.

Here are some questions to help you determine if your organization is getting its appropriate share of the Charitable Bequest pie:

Does your organization have a planned giving program?

If your organization has a planned giving program, good for you; skip to the next question.

LuMaxArt FS Collection Orange0128 by Scott Maxwell via FlickrIf your organization does not have a planned giving program, why not? The only valid reason for not promoting planned giving is that your organization does not have any individual donors. If your organization has individual donors, there’s no reason not to have a planned giving effort.

While smaller nonprofit organizations might not have elaborate, sophisticated planned giving programs, they can certainly promote Bequest giving, gifts through beneficiary designations, gifts of life insurance, donations from IRAs (when permitted by the government), contributions of appreciated stock, and gifts of personal property.

By promoting planned giving, even small charities can get a slice of the Bequest pie. Not only that, they can even help grow the pie. Just over five percent of Americans name a charity in their will. However, one-third say they would be willing to consider including a charity in their will. There is a massive chasm between these two figures. If more nonprofits ask more people for more planned gifts, we could see far more than five percent of Americans including a charity in their will.

To learn more about planned gifts any organization can seek and how to get them, register for my free webinar “Planned Giving: It’s Easier than You Think!,” hosted by Wild Woman Fundraising on July 17, 2015, 3:00 PM (ET) to 4:30 PM (ET).

Do you have a ROBUST planned giving program?

Okay, you have a planned giving program. Good. But, is it a robust effort or do you simply market passively or focus primarily on your wealthiest donors?

If you simply market passively and expect your donors to make a planned gift without being asked, you’re missing out on gifts your organization should be getting. Just like with any other type of fundraising, you actually have to ask for Bequest commitments if you want them.

If you focus only on your wealthiest, biggest donors, you’re missing a huge opportunity to grow your results. Yes, it’s true that wealthy donors leave the most to charities. In 2014, “estimated Bequest giving from estates with assets $1 million and above amounted to $22.12 billion,” according to Giving USA 2015, while “estimated Bequest giving from estates with assets below $1 million amounted to $6.01 billion.” However, there’s still a lot of money being raised from less wealthy supporters. And there is tremendous potential to raise even more from these individuals.

Here’s what Giving USA 2015 has to say about prospecting for Bequest intentions:

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June 16, 2015

Strong American Philanthropy at a Record High!

Americans donated an estimated $358.38 billion in 2014, surpassing the peak last seen before the Great Recession, according to the 60th anniversary edition of Giving USA, released today. That overall total slightly exceeds the benchmark year of 2007, when giving hit an estimated inflation-adjusted total of $355.17 billion. However, Individual giving has yet to recover fully.

The 2014 philanthropy total increased by 5.4 percent, when inflation adjusted, over the revised estimate of $339.94 billion that Americans donated in 2013. Giving has grown for each of the previous five years. The growth in 2014 significantly outpaces the average growth rate of 3.4 percent (inflation adjusted) during the past five-year period.

All four sources of contributions that comprise total giving increased in 2014:

  • Individuals (72 percent of the total, 4 percent inflation-adjusted increase)
  • Corporations (5 percent of the total, 11.9 percent inflation-adjusted increase)
  • Foundations (15 percent of the total, 8.2 percent inflation-adjusted increase)
  • Bequests (8 percent of the total, 13.6 inflation-adjusted increase)

Giving USA 8.5 x 11 Infographic“The 60 year high for total giving is a great story about resilience and perseverance,” says W. Keith Curtis, Chairman of the Giving USA Foundation and President of The Curtis Group. “It’s also interesting to consider that growth was across the board, even though criteria used to make decisions about giving differ for each source.”

When combining the Individual and Bequest numbers, we see that individuals contributed 80 percent of all dollars given to charity in 2014. If we include family foundation giving, individual philanthropy accounted for 87 percent of all dollars given in 2014, according to Patrick Rooney, PhD, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Large Individual gifts of $200 million or more accounted for a significant portion of the overall growth in Individual giving while the actual number of gifts over $1 million has decreased.

“We saw several very large gifts greater than $200 million — a few were greater than $500 million and one was nearly $2 billion — in 2014,” says Rooney. “The majority of these mega-gifts were given by relatively young tech entrepreneurs.”

Looking at the nine gift recipient categories, all but one saw an increase in giving:

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March 6, 2015

Stephen Pidgeon: What’s Holding Back Your Legacy Fundraising?

What is one of the major things holding back your legacy fundraising efforts?

It’s your own naivety.

You might not like that answer, but it’s the conclusion reached by veteran fundraising expert Stephen Pidgeon, the author of How to Love Your Donors (to Death). Pidgeon will be sharing his insights at the AFP International Fundraising Conference (Baltimore, March 29-31, 2015) in his session, “Bequest Asks: Getting it Right.”

So, why does Pidgeon think many fundraising professionals are naïve?

Because THEY don’t like to thinHow  to Love Your Donors (to Death)k about death, [fundraising professionals] assume everyone else is the same. Well, older people (those in their late 50’s and older) do think about death, and they do it perfectly maturely and with no fuss. And the older they get the more unexceptional it becomes. Indeed, supporters are often hugely grateful for the opportunity to make such a major contribution, albeit after they have died. It is a matter of immense pride to them that they have made the decision and sorted their affairs.

“I’d ask what right has some well paid, youthful charity executive (meaning in their mid-50s or younger!) to deny their best supporters the opportunity of such deep satisfaction. That’s patronising age-ism and when you get into your 60’s or older, nothing is more irritating. Casually mentioning the possibility of a bequest in a newsletter that is read by less than 20 percent of its circulation is NOT ‘…giving your best supporters the opportunity…’!”

The key when speaking with people about bequest giving is to do so in the right way. After all, you’re not helping them plan their funeral; you’re helping them build their legacy. (Be sure to read my post “One Word is Costing Your Fundraising Effort a Fortune” about the latest research findings reported by Dr. Russell James.)

Pidgeon also identifies another problem with bequest marketing:

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August 23, 2013

5 Words or Phrases that Can Cause Donors to Cringe

Words have the power to inspire. They also have the power to alienate. Words can touch us or they can fall flat.

In my previous post, I shared seven words that, when used together, can earn you the respect, trust, and appreciation of prospects and donors.

Word by Whatknot via FlickrMary Cahalane, of the Hands-on Fundraising blog, looked at words from a different perspective in her excellent post “7 Words and Phrases that Should Die.” 

Inspired by Mary, I now want to share my list of planned-giving and major-giving related words and phrases that, at times, make me cringe:

Planned Giving. I know, I just used the term “planned giving,” and now I’m telling you it makes me cringe. Let me explain. The term is jargon. As such, I think it’s fine to use with other nonprofit professionals in the office. It nicely encompasses all of the various ways of planning a gift. Unfortunately, most donors have either no idea what the term means or only a vague, partial notion.

When speaking with a prospect, avoid talking about “planned giving.” Instead, talk with your prospects about their “legacy” and the specific gift structure(s) you want to suggest. For example, talk about a gift in a will or a Charitable Gift Annuity rather than using the confusing and, for the context, overly broad term “planned giving.” If you need a generic term to use with prospects, I prefer “legacy giving,” while I acknowledge that that phrase is not completely without its own problems.

Bequest. When you read the previous paragraph, you might have noticed I avoided this word. You might have guessed that I don’t particularly like the word “bequest.” If you did, you’re right.

First, many people don’t really understand what a “bequest” is. Second, many of those who do understand the word think it is something only rich folks do. Third, the word sounds funereal to some.

Instead of using the word “bequest,” talk with prospects in simple, easy to understand terms. Don’t ask them to make a charitable bequest commitment. Ask your prospects to include your organization in their will.

Philanthropy. This is a great word. It comes from a Greek word literally meaning “love of humankind.” Unfortunately, some prospects, and even some donors, find the word alienating.

I remember speaking with a woman while we were waiting in the wings at a National Philanthropy Day luncheon. I was about to present her with the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning of Greater Philadelphia Legacy Award for Planned Giving Philanthropist of the Year. She told me she was honored to be present, but she wanted me to know, “I’m not really a philanthropist.”

I explained to the award recipient what the word “philanthropy” means. And I explained that it is not a term that is exclusive to the wealthy. I made sure she understood that she is indeed a philanthropist. I’m glad I had the chance to explain “philanthropy” to this caring donor. Sadly, we don’t always have such an opportunity.

If you’re thinking about using the word “philanthropy,” know your audience and know whether the term will resonate. Just keep in mind that 70 percent of people with investible assets of $1 million or more do not consider themselves wealthy, according to The UBS Investor Watch. If your prospects think “philanthropy” is only for the wealthy, and they’re not wealthy, you’re going to have some problems if you toss around the word. Words such as “legacy” or “support” might do nicely instead.

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August 29, 2012

Special Report: Ooops! Giving USA Identifies Its Mistake

[Publisher’s Note: “Special Reports” are posted from time-to-time as a benefit for subscribers and frequent visitors to this blog. “Special Reports” are not widely promoted. To be notified of all new posts, including “Special Reports,” please take a moment to subscribe in the right-hand column. Your email address will be kept private.]

 

The people who bring us Giving USA have announced that the latest edition of the report contains a clerical error.

In life, when one makes a mistake, it’s generally a good idea to admit it and, when possible, fix it. It’s impossible to be perfect. So, what separates the good guys from the bad guys is not who can achieve perfection. Instead, the good guys are defined by how effectively and honestly they deal with problems when they are identified.

I congratulate Giving USA for promptly correcting its error.

Here is the text of the email from Giving USA that explains the situation:

 

Dear Valued Giving USA Customer,

The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and Giving USA are committed to providing the most up-to-date data on charitable giving possible-and to doing so with transparency, accuracy, and accessibility.

It is for this reason that we are notifying you that the Center on Philanthropy has updated the Giving USA bequest and total giving data for the years 1998-2009 that were originally reported in Giving USA 2012, released in June of this year. The changes are necessary because an error in the bequest giving data for those years has come to our attention.

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