Posts tagged ‘legacy giving’

March 6, 2018

3 Powerful Ways to Get Your Monthly Donors to Give More

A few weeks ago, I published the post “How to Get Last Year’s Donors to Give More this Year.” Guest blogger Joe Garecht shared some great advice for increasing giving. However, the post did not specifically address the issue of monthly giving. That led to a reader comment.

Larry Little, President of Guardian Angel Basset Rescue, raised some important questions:

Our revenues are in the $300k range but approximately 30% of that comes through our monthly giving program. My question is about asking monthly donors to increase their amounts. How often should that be done? And should you segment your list and ask that segment every 18 months?”

First, I want to congratulate Little for having a robust monthly-giving program. Well done!

Second, I thank Little for inspiring this week’s post. While I could have given him a quick, brief response, I realized the topic deserves more attention and that it would likely be of interest to many of my readers. So, I invited expert Erica Waasdorp, President of A Direct Solution and author of the best-selling book Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant, to share her wisdom to help us better understand how to inspire greater giving from monthly supporters. I thank her for her insights:


It’s wonderful to see how much the focus is shifting to monthly giving, and it’s starting to really pay off for nonprofit organizations. Here are just two recent statistics from the most recent Blackbaud Luminate Online Benchmark Report:

Expanding relationships with existing supporters was the name of the game this year as we saw a 20.4% growth in sustainer revenue.”

Viewing online revenue as one great big pie, we saw a larger slice of the pie—8.4% more—coming from sustainer gifts in 2017.”

Today, I’m not going to write about how to convert your donors to give monthly. Today, I’m going to focus on how to generate more money from your existing monthly donors.

Just because they’re now giving more money than as single-gift givers doesn’t mean it ends there. Oh no! There are three ways you can actually ask your monthly donors to give more money:

1.      Ask for a monthly upgrade.

2.      Ask for an additional gift.

3.      Ask for a legacy gift.

Ask for a monthly upgrade.

People typically ask me two questions: A) How soon after a donor starts giving monthly can I ask for an upgrade? B) How often can I ask for an upgrade?

Before I address the timing questions, let me just point out that donors upgrade because they have been stewarded effectively. Totally true. And this also pertains to monthly donors. That’s why I always “hammer” on the importance of sending a hard-copy thank-you recognition letter even if the monthly donor came in online.

So let’s assume that you’ve done this part right. And let’s assume that your donor gives monthly through his or her credit card. And let’s assume that you send the donor a quarterly newsletter with some great stories and updates on how the donor’s giving makes a difference.

I’ve seen organizations that started to upgrade right away. I’ve seen organizations that started to upgrade three months after a monthly donor joined. Frankly, I think that’s just too soon. Yes, you may get some donors to upgrade when you ask, but I think you’d also come across as much greedier than you may wish to. That could alienate some supporters.

Your donor has just started to get used to giving monthly. They’re just getting acquainted with your stewardship efforts. They have just started to realize the convenience of giving this way.

You pay taxes typically once a year; you update your budget once a year, so I suggest asking for an upgraded amount once a year, ideally between 10 to 12 months after the donor gave monthly for the first time. That’s when you can make a legitimate case for the increase in cost for xyz service, and ask the donor if he can “give just a few dollars more a month” to help the children/client/animals.

And, as Joe Garecht mentioned in his earlier post, the four elements of asking monthly donors to increase their monthly gift are indeed:

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January 19, 2018

Charitable Giving Threatened by Drop In Volunteerism

On Monday, the USA celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a national day of service. From April 15 to 21, the nation will mark National Volunteer Week. Clearly, Americans value volunteerism.

Unfortunately, the volunteerism rate has been steadily declining for years. This trend has disturbing implications for philanthropy.

In 2003, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 28.8 percent of Americans volunteered. By 2015, that rate had steadily fallen to 24.9 percent. This is a huge problem for the nonprofit sector for a number of reasons:

Volunteers Provide a Valuable Resource. Volunteers do a great deal of work that might not be done otherwise. 62.6 million Americans volunteered 7.8 billion hours. Independent Sector reports that a volunteer hour is worth $24.14, over $180 billion of total estimated value. Sadly, with volunteerism on the decline, charities are forced to provide fewer services or incur greater labor costs.

Volunteers Serve as Ambassadors. In addition to being a valuable labor resource, volunteers are also fantastic ambassadors for an organization. The typical volunteer serves only one or two organizations, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. When volunteers share their experiences, they also talk with friends, family, and professional colleagues about your organization and its mission. This could lead to additional volunteer and philanthropic support. With a drop in volunteerism, there are now fewer ambassadors for charities, which will inevitably lead to less future support.

Volunteers are More Likely to Donate. Volunteers are twice as likely as non-volunteers to make a charitable contribution, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. Even planned giving is affected by volunteerism. As I’ve reported previously, researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP states in his book, American Charitable Bequest Demographics (1992-2012):

Among those with [estate] planning documents, those who both volunteer and give ($500+) are dramatically more likely to plan a charitable estate gift than those who only volunteer or only give ($500+). Those who only volunteer, plan charitable estate gifts at approximately the same rate as those who only give.”

Those who only volunteer or only donate ($500+) are more than twice as likely to make a legacy gift than those who do neither. [For a free electronic copy of James’ book, subscribe to this blog site in the right-hand column. You’ll receive an email confirmation of your subscription that will contain a link to the book.]

With a decline in volunteerism, we can expect fewer people to make current and planned gifts. This is already happening according to an analysis by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

There are many likely reasons for the decline in volunteerism including:

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January 12, 2018

Hang-on to the Holiday Spirit with FREE Gifts and Resources to Raise More Money!

For most of us, whether we observe Hanukkah, Christmas, or just the New Year, the holiday season is an uplifting time full of joy. However, the same cannot always be said of the post-holiday period, according to Linda Walter, LCSW. Her article in Psychology Today cites many reasons for the post-holiday blahs, for some, even depression.

As an antidote for the after-holiday letdown, I want to share several free resources with you that just might help you keep the holiday spirit going while also helping you raise more money in 2018.

The Donor-Advised Fund Widget. For starters, let me tell you about the Donor-Advised Fund Widget created and offered free-of-charge by the generous folks at MarketSmart. This useful, free gift will help you continue to celebrate the season and raise more money for your nonprofit organization.

When it comes to fundraising, a general rule is: Make it easy for people to give your organization money. You probably already do this in a number of ways. For example, your organization probably allows donors to place gifts on their credit card, mail a check in a business reply envelope you supply, give online, or contribute when they buy products (e.g., Amazon Smile).

So, why not also make it easy for someone to recommend a donation from his or her DAF account?

Rather than viewing DAFs as enemies that divert vitally needed funds away from charities, nonprofit organizations should view DAFs as a great fundraising opportunity. Unfortunately, the problem is that nonprofits have not made it easy for people to donate from their DAF accounts…until now.

Greg Warner, Founder and CEO of MarketSmart, says:

Amazon is successful primarily because they make it easy to buy stuff. Similarly, if nonprofits just made it easy to transfer DAF money, the bottleneck would get un-clogged. But no one was stepping up. So I did!”

The DAF Widget goes on your organization’s website. Your donors with DAF accounts then can easily find their account management company from a comprehensive list of over 800 service providers. Then, they simply click to go directly to their DAF management company’s website where they can enter the relevant information to make a donation recommendation for your organization. To see the widget live, visit the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society website by clicking here.

DAFs are an increasingly valuable source of donations for charities. Consider the following market-wide insights from The National Philanthropic Trust 2017 Donor-Advised Fund Report:

  2012 2016
Number of DAF Accounts 204,704 284,965
Total Assets in DAF Accounts $44.71 billion $85,15 billion
Grants from DAF Accounts $8.5 billion $15.75 billion
Ave. DAF Asset Size $218,413 $298,809

To put the above figures into context, non-corporate private foundations gave $45.15 billion to charities in 2016. By contrast, donations made from DAFs totaled $15.75 billion that same year, equating to roughly one-third (34.8 percent) of the estimated amount granted by non-corporate private foundations.

In other words, DAF donations represent a significant and growing source of gifts for nonprofit organizations. However, to get your share, you need to make it easy for people to recommend donations from their DAF accounts. That’s why MarketSmart created the free DAF Widget.

You can learn more about the DAF Widget and claim yours by clicking here.

There is just one catch, if you want to call it that. The DAF Widget is in its Beta Edition. So, MarketSmart is looking for feedback, either directly or through comments below. Then, Greg promises to invest more time and money to make the DAF Widget even better. So, if you use the DAF Widget, please let us know how you think it could be made easier to use and more effective.

Here are seven additional resources for you to help get 2018 off to a great start:

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February 7, 2017

Get a FREE Book for Nonprofits by a Noted Researcher

Do you like getting something for free? I do, especially when it can help me be more successful.

Now, thanks to Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP, the Texas Tech University professor and philanthropy researcher, you can download a free, 427 page book that will become an important reference source in your fundraising library.

Whether you call it planned giving, gift planning, legacy planning, philanthropic planning, charitable estate planning, charitable gift planning, or something else, the subject is complex. However, it does not have to be overwhelmingly confusing.

visual-planned-giving-2017-coverTo help you, James has put together the book Visual Planned Giving: Introduction to the Law & Taxation of Charitable Gift Planning, newly revised and updated for 2017. Designed for fundraisers and financial advisors seeking to expand their knowledge about charitable gift planning, this introductory book addresses all of the major topics in planned giving law and taxation.

The gift planning topics you’ll learn about include elements of a gift, documentation requirements, valuation rules, income limitations, bargain sales, charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts, charitable lead trusts, life insurance, retirement assets, private foundations, and donor advised funds. Over 1,000 full-color illustrations and images will guide you through complex concepts in a visual and intuitive way. James makes planned giving accessible and pain-free for the busy professional.

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October 28, 2016

Get a Free Halloween Treat for Fundraisers

If you’re like most fundraising professionals, you’re not optimally asking donors to include your nonprofit organization in their will.

You’re probably not driving as much traffic to your planned giving webpage as you could.

You’re also probably less successful at closing Charitable Gift Annuities than you could be.


The Lone Ranger and Silver.

I know. You decided to read this post to discover how you can get a free Halloween treat. Instead, you’re probably starting to feel tricked. But, fear not! Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP, the Texas Tech University professor and philanthropy researcher, along with the good folks at MarketSmart, are riding in to save the day.

Last summer, James conducted a webinar hosted by MarketSmart. During his presentation, James unveiled his latest, powerful research findings along with research insights from others. You can learn more about the webinar and get some great tips by clicking here.

Now, for your treat, MarketSmart has distilled James’ webinar into a free, 22-page e-book that will help you raise millions of dollars more. For example, here’s just one simple, yet valuable tip:

When you want to engage people in a conversation about Charitable Gift Annuities, what is the best way to describe this giving vehicle to make folks want to learn more?

James tested five phrases. Among the 2,550 respondents, he discovered the percentage interested in learning more:

read more »

July 28, 2016

Do You Know that “Planned Giving” is Bad for #Fundraising?

That’s right. “Planned Giving” is bad for nonprofit fundraising.

For years, I’ve been writing and talking about the problems with the term “Planned Giving.” Now, new research underscores what I’ve been advising: You should stop using the term!

Sometime ago, The Stelter Company conducted a survey that I cite in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. Stelter found only 37 percent of Americans over the age of 30 have a familiarity with the term “Planned Giving.” We have no way of knowing what percentage of those claiming familiarity really, in fact, know what the term truly means.

Other terms have become increasingly popular as substitutes for “Planned Giving.” However, none has yet to gain sufficient traction to overtake the use of “Planned Giving.” Consider the results from simple Google searches I conducted for this post:

  • Planned Giving — 14.8 million results
  • Philanthropic Planning — 11.1 million results
  • Gift Planning — 5.7 million results
  • Legacy Giving — 2.1 million results

What we know is that the general public has little understanding of the term “Planned Giving” although it appears to be the best term we have. Unfortunately, popular does not mean effective.

William Shatner in The Grim Reaper by Tom Simpson via FlickrWhile “Planned Giving” is a reasonable, inside-the-development-office catch-all term to describe, well, planned giving, it’s not a particularly good marketing term. That’s according to the findings of philanthropy researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP.

James conducted a study to answer this vitally important marketing question: “What is the best ‘front door’ phrase to make people want to read more Planned Giving information?”

Think of it this way: Will a “Planned Giving” button at your website encourage visitors to click through to learn more or is there a more effective term?

To be a successful term, James believes two objectives must be met:

  1. Individuals have to be interested in finding out more.
  2. Individuals have to expect to see Planned Giving information (i.e., no “bait and switch”).

To find the strongest marketing term, James asked people to imagine they were viewing the website of a charity representing a cause that is important in their lives. In addition to a “Donate Now” button, the following buttons appear on the website:

  • Gift Planning
  • Planned Giving
  • Giving Now & Later
  • Other Ways to Give
  • Other Ways to Give Smarter
  • Other Ways to Give Cheaper, Easier, and Smarter

James asked participants to rate their level of interest in clicking on the button to read the corresponding information. In a follow-up, James asked study participants what kind of information they would expect to see when clicking the buttons mentioned above.

The winning term is:

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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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April 29, 2016

How Can Nana Murphy Make You a Better #Fundraising Professional?

[Publisher’s Note: This post is part of a series kindly contributed by guest authors who attended the 2016 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference. These posts share valuable insights from the Conference. This week, I thank Erica Waasdorp, President of A Direct Solution, for highlighting the seminar “From Ireland with Love: A Five-Year Case Study on Donor-Centric Fundraising for Retention, Revenue, and Results.”]


What does Nana Murphy have to do with great fundraising results?


Who is Nana Murphy?

Who is Nana Murphy?

So, who is Nana Murphy? Is she a successful fundraising professional? Is she a leading fundraising consultant? Is she a donor advisor? Is she a fundraising or nonprofit management professor? Is she a philanthropy researcher? Do you give up?

Nana Murphy is your typical donor.

You need to get to know your organization’s Nana Murphys. You need to understand why she supports your organization. You need to give her what she needs from your organization. In short, you need to be donor centered. But how?

The AFP International Fundraising Conference session “From Ireland with Love” not only stressed the need to be donor centric, the presenters shared dozens of practical tips to show you exactly how you can be more donor centered and, therefore, more successful.

The speakers know what they’re talking about; together, they increased the amount of money that one prominent Irish charity raised by 1100 percent in just five years!

Erica Waasdorp, President of A Direct Solution and author of Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant, attended the session and shares some of the tips she thinks you’ll find particularly valuable. At the end of the post, I provide links for you to download two free handouts from the session that are full of dozens of additional tips and real-world examples that you must checkout.

Here are the highlights Erica wants to share with you:


I attended “From Ireland with Love,” presented by Denisa Casement, CFRE, Head of Fundraising, Merchants Quay Ireland, Dublin;  Lisa Sargent, Lisa Sargent Communications, Safford Spring, CT; and Sandra Collette, S. Collette Design, Stafford Spring, CT.

Denisa is American, originally from Arizona, and she moved to Ireland in 2008. Boy, did she make an impact on this Irish homeless charity since then, taking the revenue from 250,000 Euros to 3 Million Euros just five years later.

For me, as a traditional “old school” direct-marketing fundraiser, this was a fabulous session!

It really honed in on those fundamentals we should all know and use in our fundraising every day. Especially now, where we all get so distracted by the next new electronic approach — the next new shiny thing as Tom Ahern calls it — let’s not forget that it’s not about us, it’s all about the donors.

So, the speakers presented a life size Nana Murphy, the typical average donor in your donor base. She still reads direct mail and writes checks. She needs reading glasses and she loves honesty, emotion and authenticity. So, the first thing you need to do when you think of how best to approach donors like her, is forgot about what you think and feel. Instead, consider Nana in everything you do, and you’ll be successful. I promise!

I don’t have space here to provide you with all of the tremendous practical tips and guidelines from the session (see the handout links at the end of this post), but here are 11 that stand out. If you follow these rules, you’ll absolutely be able to raise more money!

Know your metrics. So many fundraisers don’t know their own numbers: response rate, average gift, cost to raise a dollar, lifetime value, and retention rate, to name a few. Managing your fundraising program is considerably more difficult if you don’t know the key metrics.

Use the Casement Quotienttm. I love this. Denisa introduced the Quotient: Annual fundraising income divided by 52 weeks in a year divided by the number of hours in your work week. For example, in 2015, her fundraising team raised $1,627 per hour. So, if someone comes to you to ask you to do something, that’s not going to at least raise that amount of money, you probably shouldn’t be doing it! What a clever way to say no to the next “sit in a booth at a fair for a two day event and you’ll reach 100 people.” Consider finding some volunteers instead and divvy up the time. The Casement Quotienttm is a helpful tool when it comes to setting priorities.

Get rid of silos, both in how you organize your departments and your donors. It all works better if you and your colleagues know what’s going on. There’s no need to “hide” results or think that someone does not need to know about how your fundraising is doing. Remember, the objective is not for one person to do well; instead, the objective is for the organization to do well.

Mail enough! I still see so many organizations leave lots of money on the table. They simply do not ask for gifts often enough. As long as your next mailing generates more money than it costs, you can mail more. MQI mails four appeals a year and four newsletters. Absence does not make donors’ hearts grow fonder!

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April 26, 2016

The World Loses a Passionate Advocate for #Philanthropy

The Philadelphia area has lost a passionate advocate for philanthropy.

R. Andrew Swinney, past President of The Philadelphia Foundation, passed away on Sunday, April 24. He had suffered with ALS for a year.

During his 16 years at the helm, the Foundation grew its asset base from $148 million to $370 million. In addition, the number of component charitable funds at the Foundation quadrupled.

R. Andrew Swinney

R. Andrew Swinney

As the head of a community foundation, Swinney was a strong advocate for collaboration. In 2014, he told

We need to have some form of collective approach — the rising of all boats…. We need the sectors to come together, and the community as a whole, to make a collective impact.”

In that spirit, Swinney and The Philadelphia Foundation worked closely with the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Philadelphia Chapter and the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning of Greater Philadelphia. For example, when I was President of PPPGP, Swinney agreed to sponsor a special program involving mega-philanthropist H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest. We designed the program to promote legacy giving to both the philanthropic and nonprofit communities. It was one of our best-attended events.

I enjoyed the opportunity to work with Swinney. And I was honored when Swinney endorsed my book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:

Never has there been a better time to talk about planned giving. It is an effective tool for developing resources for an organization and it is a meaningful way to truly engage with one’s donors. This book provides a thorough roadmap for both the nonprofit that needs to start and the nonprofit that needs to expand their efforts in developing an effective, well-planned, and successful development effort using planned giving.”

While Swinney believed in the power of current giving, he also valued legacy giving because it allows donors to continue to do good long after they pass.

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March 25, 2016

Do Not Overlook This Gift Opportunity

Many charities have been overlooking an increasingly important potential source of charitable contributions. Many donors have also overlooked this potential philanthropic opportunity.

It’s time to change all of that.

I’m talking about Beneficiary Designations.

While the use of Wills has declined sharply since 1998, individuals are increasingly using Beneficiary Designations to pass on assets to loved ones. Instead of a Will, individuals can use a simple Beneficiary Designation form to distribute assets from IRAs, 401ks, bank accounts, certificates of deposit, brokerage accounts, life insurance policies, and money remaining in Donor Advised Funds. In some jurisdictions, individuals can also use Beneficiary Designations to distribute property such as automobiles and real estate.

If someone does not have a Will, he cannot make a Charitable Bequest commitment. However, he can easily set up a Beneficiary Designation that directs some of his assets to a favorite charity. It’s important to note here that a Beneficiary Designation supersedes any designations made in a Will should a donor have both.

For donors, using a Beneficiary Designation can be easier and less expensive than making a Charitable Bequest commitment through a Will. Beneficiary Designations do not require a lawyer, a complicated estate planning process, or an executor. Donors can use Beneficiary Designations to take care of loved ones and/or their favorite charities. Donors can designate all or a portion of a given asset to specific beneficiaries. Beneficiary Designations also provide flexibility as individuals can easily change beneficiaries at any time.

I Spy by Flood G via FlickrTo acquire more gifts through Beneficiary Designations, nonprofit organizations need to be proactive about promoting this method of giving. As with any other planned gift vehicle, organizations need to educate prospective donors about the opportunity and how it works. Then, fundraising professionals actually need to ask for the gifts.

One way the ASPCA promoted Beneficiary Designation gifts was through an article on its website that you can read by clicking here.

The University of Florida has promoted Charitable Bequests and Beneficiary Designations using a two-page information sheet that explains the options. You can find it by clicking here.

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