Posts tagged ‘goals’

January 16, 2015

Dying to Know How Much Bequest Income Your Charity will Receive?

I always enjoy hearing from my readers. Sometimes, they give voice to questions that I suspect many others have as well. For example, I heard recently from the Development Associate of a small nonprofit organization:

Hi, Michael. I enjoy your posts and blogs very much. Do you know of any statistics which tell how long it takes to see any benefit from a planned giving program? I work at a small organization and they want to put a dollar amount to be raised in the annual fund raising plan. Doesn’t common sense say you cannot expect a definite planned giving amount EVERY year? We are very small and really only capable of pursuing bequests. Are there statistics to support this in writing that I could use to share with my Board and CEO? Many thanks for all your informative and helpful posts!”

Regarding the first question about how long it will take a new planned giving program to become effective, I’ll provide the standard consultant’s answer: It depends. I’m actually not being flippant. The answer depends on a great number of variables including, but not limited to:

  • How many planned giving prospects are there?
  • How educated are they about planned giving?
  • What is the quality of the relationship that the organization has with prospective planned gift donors?
  • How old are the prospects?
  • How healthy are the prospects?
  • Do your prospects tend to have children and grandchildren?

The good news is that while we cannot easily predict when an organization will begin to benefit from a bequest giving program or how much money the program will produce by a particular date, we do know that the organization will benefit sooner as well as later. Even with deferred commitments such bequest gifts, charities will often begin to see a return within three to five years.

The Wizard by SeanMcGrath via FlickrThe second question also does not lend itself to an easy answer. However, as the Development Associate suspects, it is “common sense” to say that most organizations “cannot expect a definite planned giving amount EVERY year.”

Nevertheless, I know that this issue is not limited to this particular charity. I also know that it’s not limited to small charities. Not long ago, I learned of a much larger nonprofit organization that always budgets to receive $1 million of bequest revenue annually despite the objections of the group’s planned giving specialist.

So, what is the answer? How much, if anything, should organizations budget for planned giving support?

While large organizations with mature development programs might be able to forecast planned giving revenue with some degree of accuracy and safety, there is no way a small organization with no significant prior planned giving experience can do that. Budgeting on bequest revenue is generally problematic for the following reasons:

  • You don’t know how many individuals have already made a bequest commitment but simply have not told you.
  • You don’t know how many people would be willing to make a bequest commitment.
  • You don’t know how many people who have made a bequest commitment have changed their will to remove the charity.
  • You don’t know when people who have made a bequest commitment will die. While actuarial tables can provide some hint at this, the reality is that such tables are more reliable with larger groups rather than single individuals.
  • Many people who are willing to make a bequest commitment will not tell you the amount of that commitment. If the commitment is a percentage of estate, the donor will likely not even know how much will end up in the charity’s hands.

In short, with bequests in particular, there are too many unknowns. For a new planned giving program, regardless the size of the charity, projecting bequest revenue figures would simply be guesswork. Even for larger organizations with an established gift planning program, budgeting for planned giving revenue can be risky. For example, I know of one organization that budgeted for planned giving revenue but came up short resulting in an operating deficit. Ouch!

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August 5, 2011

You’ll Only Hit What You Aim At. So, Aim High!

My post this week is very personal. It is about my friend Gene Cavanaugh, a cabaret singer and philanthropist, who passed away on July 25, 2011. Because Gene’s story contains three valuable lessons for us all, I thought I would share it with you.

Gene Cavanaugh

For over 40 years Gene was a sales manager and audio consultant for the Record Shop, an electronics store in New Jersey. He retired three weeks before his passing at age 63. However, about 15 years ago, Gene made a long-held dream come true by launching his second career as a cabaret singer. He called it his “Midlife Musical Crisis.” Gene’s show featured classic, popular standards focusing on the themes of romance and maturity. His initial success led to regular engagements throughout the greater Philadelphia region. And, five years ago, Gene made his successful debut at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Because Gene had a bighearted spirit, he regularly donated his talents to charity, including singing at annual fundraisers for the Mazzoni Center and Dignity Philadelphia.

So, what can we learn from this modest, though generous and talented, man who was taken too soon?

“In the long-run, men hit only what they aim at.” — Henry David Thoreau

Gene was an insecure man. But, he had a dream. As he approached his 50th birthday, he decided to take the plunge. He set goals for himself. He targeted where he wanted to perform and how frequently. He set a goal to attract sell-out crowds. And, he set an almost unimaginable goal for himself, a guy from Philly who managed an electronics store: He would play Carnegie Hall in New York City. Gene realized his goals by first articulating them and then doing the work necessary to achieve them.

Whether in our own careers or for our organizations, we must set goals to be successful. We need to set goals for where we want to be in the near, mid, and long-term. Then, we need to map-out what we must do to achieve the goals. We may not always succeed, but the surest way to fail is to not set any goals or to not take the necessary steps to accomplish them.

“Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.” — Mark Twain

I always enjoyed Gene’s performances. He had a powerful, clear voice. He had a passion for the music. He also had vast knowledge of the songs of Broadway. One of Gene’s favorite things to do was to sing well-known songs from, and share tidbits about, little-known Broadway musicals. Yet, despite his enormous talent and terrific repertoire, Gene was always a nervous wreck before his performances. And, not just immediately before performances. He would worry for weeks leading up to his gigs. Would people come? He always sold out. Would he have a cold? He sometimes did, but it didn’t matter. Would the audience like his song selection? They always did. Would he be in good voice? Even at his worst, he was always enormously entertaining.

Despite his pre-show anxiety, Gene never missed a performance. The opportunity for him to realize his dream every time he stepped to the microphone was enough for him to muster courage, overcome his insecurities, and seize the moment.

In our lives, we have to stop listening to the voices around us and in our own heads that say, “It can’t be done.” Or, “You’re not good enough.” Instead, we need to confront our fears and move forward toward achieving our goals. We need to have courage.

“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill

Gene was a very giving man. While never wealthy, he was nevertheless a philanthropist, a man who truly loved humanity. He gave money, his time, his talent. He gave to charities, his multitude of friends, his family. In return, Gene was loved by many who will carry his memory with them.

When we give, we get so much more in return. Because of what we, who work in the nonprofit world, do for a living, it’s easy for us to get lost in the numbers. But, we need to remember that when we work to make the world a better place, when we give of ourselves, we enrich our own lives as well.

I will miss my friend even though a part of him will always be with me.

If there is a heavenly choir, then I know that Gene will be singing with the angels.

That’s what Michael Rosen Says… What do you say?

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