Posts tagged ‘philanthropic planning’

September 3, 2015

Are You Smarter than a Fourth Grader?

A few weeks ago, I got to spend time with my niece Nicole and nephew Evan who were visiting Philadelphia before the start of the new school year in Florida. They’re wonderful kids, and it was great seeing them.

Evan by Michael Rosen

My nephew, Evan.

One evening when 9-year-old Evan and I were hanging out, I decided to ask him an odd question to see where it might go:

If you wanted someone to give you money, what would you do?”

Evan, who just entered the fourth grade and has no fundraising experience, replied:

I’d ask them.”

Bingo! Evan instinctively knows one of the fundamental rules of fundraising: If you want donations, you have to ask for them.

So, are you smarter than a fourth grader?

Since you’re reading this post, I’m going to assume you know the general importance of the ask in the fundraising process. However, knowing and doing are two different things. So, let me ask you a few more questions:

Do you ask for planned gifts?

While 88.7 percent of people surveyed say that it’s appropriate for a nonprofit organization to ask for a legacy gift, researchers found that only 22 percent of those over the age of 30 have been asked. In other words, there are a huge number of people who are willing to be asked for a planned gift but who are not.

Even among those charities that do ask people to make a planned gift, the ask is reserved for a very narrow group of prospects that might include major donors, board members, and people who have requested planned giving information. Those asks are most often made during face-to-face visits.

On the other hand, wise organizations also use direct mail and the telephone to reach out to a broad number of prospects to ask them to make a planned gift commitment.

One smart nonprofit organization that has successfully used direct mail to ask for legacy gifts is the Natural Resources Defense Council. They did two mailings involving a total of 50,000 pieces that generated $8.5 million in bequest commitments. You can see a sample of the mailing by clicking here.

A university in Texas targeted 7,000 alumni with a mail promotion for Charitable Gift Annuities, following up direct-mail-generated leads with phone calls that resulted in $730,000.

An orchestra in the Pacific Northwest implemented a coordinated mail/phone campaign involving 2,200 prospects in an effort that produced an estimated $2 million in bequest expectancies.

If your organization wants more planned gifts, you need to ask more people to give. While face-to-face asks will always be important, you can ask far more people by using direct mail and the phone as well, just like your organization does for the annual fund.

You can find more details about the examples I’ve cited, additional examples, and helpful tips in my award-winning book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing.

Do you ask supporters to enroll in a monthly-giving program?

In 1989, I predicted that virtually every charity would have a monthly-giving program within five years. Sadly, I could not have been more wrong. I shouldn’t have been, but I was. Now, more than a quarter-century later, shockingly few charities ask supporters to give monthly.

A great way to enhance your organization’s donor-retention rate while upgrading the amount of support from donors is to ask donors to give monthly.

Some of my friends and I believe so strongly in the power of monthly giving that we participated in this short, light-hearted video on the subject:

If you’re not asking your supporters to give monthly, you’re organization is missing a great opportunity. For powerful advice on how to run a monthly-giving program, checkout Harvey McKinnon’s book Hidden Gold, and Erica Waasdorp’s book Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant.

Do you ask donors to upgrade their support?

August 20, 2015

Fundraising and Marketing Does Not Have to be Hard or Costly

Marketing and fundraising for a nonprofit organization can be time consuming and expensive. But, it does not always have to be.

One way to market and raise money for your organization with little effort and no cost is to include a simple tagline in your email signature. The tagline can promote a program, event, general fundraising, or even planned giving.

email symbol on row of colourful envelopesRecently, one of my readers contacted me looking for email tagline tips and examples. Because I take topic requests, I’m devoting this post to the subject of taglines. If you have a subject you’d like me to address, just let me know with a comment below.

Before I get to email signature taglines, I want to quickly make a point about email signatures, in general: You should always use one. An email signature, with your name and full contact information, will make it easier for people to communicate with you and, if they are so moved, to give you money. So, use an email signature block in new and reply emails. If you want tips on constructing an email signature, checkout my post: “Remove Obstacles to Giving!”

An email tagline should come immediately after your email signature block. There are six factors that will make your micro-message standout:

1.  Actually use a tagline. As Woody Allen said, “80 percent of success is showing up.” If you want a successful email tagline, you have to use an email tagline. Even a mediocre tagline will be better than having none.

2.  Speak to Your Audience. Before you can speak to your audience, you need to know your audience. In the case of orchestra supporters, many like to see themselves as true patrons of the arts. Therefore, using a term such as “musical legacy” might resonate. For other types of nonprofit organizations, however, the term “legacy” might be off-putting. So, be sure to know your audience before crafting your message.

3.  Keep it pithy. An email tagline should be no more than 10 words in length. The fewer words you can use to get your point across, the better.

August 14, 2015

Easy Ways to Cultivate Your Donors and Raise More Money

Steven Shattuck recently interviewed me about one of my favorite topics for Bloomerang TV: Donor Cultivation.

Many nonprofit organizations see caring cultivation and solid stewardship as luxuries rather than essential components of the fundraising process. That’s one reason for low donor retention rates, 23 percent for first-time donors and 43 percent overall.

Well, I’m here to tell you that if you simply ask for donations with little or no attention given to cultivation and stewardship, you’re nothing more than a professional beggar. Development professionals recognize that fundraising does not begin and end with an appeal. Development professionals know the importance of cultivation and stewardship.

During my interview, I share a number of easy to implement, low-cost ideas for cultivating and stewarding your prospects and donors. One of the things I talk about is the value of pleasantly surprising people; I even share a couple of examples. You can read the full interview transcript of “Sneaky Ways to Cultivate Donors” by clicking here. You can watch the full 17 minute video below:

For more tips about cultivating your planned giving prospects and donors, read my article “Effectively Cultivating Prospects at Little or No Cost” which appeared in Advancing Philanthropy, the magazine of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. For additional tips and great examples for educating, cultivating, and stewarding planned giving prospects and donors, checkout my book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing.

August 12, 2015

23 Sources for Powerful #Fundraising Tips that Will Get Results

Most fundraising professionals want to achieve better results. Unfortunately, finding the insights and tips that will help you enhance your development efforts is challenging. So many information resources exist. However, which sources are the best?

Last week, I reported that Fundlio created a valuable resource list: “20 Fundraising Blogs Every Nonprofit Organization Leader Should Be Reading Now.” I’m honored to have my blogsite included on the list.

Now, I’m honored to report that my blog has been included on yet another list of must-read sites. Chris Baylis of The Sponsorship Collective has written: “23 Fundraising Websites and Blogs Every Fundraiser Should Read.”

Information Hydrant by Will Lion via FlickrTo compile the list, Baylis says, “My preference is for blogs that provide good content, comic relief and tips and tricks that I can implement right away.”

Baylis has done fundraising professionals a great service by putting the list together. While his list is not exhaustive, as he himself admits, it is certainly another great place to start if you’re looking for wisdom in the vast sea of information on the Internet. I encourage you to checkout the list and visit some of the blogs with which you might not yet be familiar.

July 23, 2015

IRA Rollover Poised to Make a Comeback

I have some good news.

The US Congress has begun the process to revive the Charitable IRA Rollover which expired at the end of 2014. Now, it’s time for you to take action.

On Tuesday, July 21, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee approved a number of tax extender provisions including the IRA Rollover. While the Committee considered making the IRA Rollover provision permanent, it ultimately settled on a two-year extension.

US CapitolFinance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said, “This markup [of the bill] will give the Committee a timely opportunity to act on extending a number of expired provisions in the tax code that help families, individuals and small businesses. This is the first time in 20 years where a new Congress has started with extenders legislation having already expired, and given that these provisions are meant to be incentives, we need to advance a package as soon as possible.”

Ranking Committee Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) said, “The tax code should work for, not against, Americans. We need to extend these tax provisions now in order to provide greater certainty and predictability for middle class families and businesses alike. However, as we look beyond next week, it’s critical we all recognize and take action to end this stop and go approach to tax policy through extenders.”

The House of Representatives has yet to take action though Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, remains interested in legislation that would make the IRA Rollover permanent. However, ultimately, the House might bring its thinking into alignment with the Senate Finance Committee. The House is expected to take up the issue as early as September.

When Democrats controlled the Congress, the IRA Rollover extensions were done a year at a time and often very late in the year. This made it challenging for both donors and nonprofit organizations to plan and to take full advantage of the provision.

With Republicans in full control of Congress, the House and Senate are considering the IRA Rollover provision earlier in the year and are considering a longer extension term. These are both good things for donors and charities.

It remains to be seen when final action will be taken and what that action will look like. It’s also unclear whether the Obama Administration will support the measure.

The Charitable Giving Coalition has long advocated for the IRA Rollover and other provisions that provide incentives for charitable giving. In addition to encouraging Congress to take action, the Coalition has sent the following letter to all Presidential candidates:

June 30, 2015

Free Webinar Will Help You Get Great Results

Fundraising can certainly be challenging. Have you ever wondered:

  • How can I raise more money at little or no extra cost?
  • Is my organization ready for a planned giving program?
  • What simple planned giving vehicles should I promote?
  • What is my organization’s Bequest giving potential?
  • Who are my best planned giving prospects?
  • Do I need to be an expert to do planned giving?
  • What motivates planned giving donors?
  • How should I ask for planned gifts?

If you’ve ever asked yourself any of those questions, then I have the perfect free webinar for you.

FreeI’m presenting “Planned Giving: It’s Easier than You Think!” During my free webinar, hosted by Wild Woman Fundraising, you’ll get answers to all of the above questions and more. In short, you’ll learn how to easily launch and grow a successful planned giving program.

For many nonprofit professionals, planned giving sounds complicated, with its CRUTs, CRATs, CLUTs, and CLATs. Admittedly, gift planning can indeed be incredibly complex. However, as this free webinar will demonstrate, it does not have to be. Furthermore, a planned giving program can be enormously worthwhile for virtually any organization, even those with little or no budget for it.

For valuable tips to help you grow your planned giving results, register for my free webinar today, “Planned Giving: It’s Easier than You Think!” [July 17, 2015, 3:00-4:00 PM (EDT)]. To register, CLICK HERE.

As a webinar participant, you will receive a number of bonus handouts including:

June 26, 2015

Are You Wasting Time by Hunting Unicorns?

Go to any fundraising conference, and you’ll find unicorn hunters. You might even be one. You can see the unicorn hunters in seminar sessions about Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts (CRATs), Charitable Lead Trusts (CLTs), and Charitable Remainder Uni-Trusts (CRUTs).

Unicorn hunters believe that Trusts are the cornerstone to a healthy planned giving program. Unicorn hunters scour the wealthiest portion of their donor files to find Trust prospects and then focus an enormous amount of time and energy trying to close big Trust gifts.

Unicorn by Rob Boudon via FlickrSome would-be unicorn hunters are overwhelmed by the hunt. They fear they have no prospects and/or they fear they have insufficient knowledge to pursue such gifts. So, they don’t implement any kind of planned giving effort.

Well, here’s your reality check, courtesy of Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014.

As the chart below reveals, the number of Trusts is tiny compared to the number of Public Charities which stood at 963,234 in 2012 (not including religious congregations and organizations with less than $5,000 in revenue), according to the Urban Institute’s The Nonprofit Sector in Brief 2014.

Even if every single charity that received a Trust gift only received one, that would mean that less than 12 percent of charities would have received a Trust gift in 2012. In other words, the likelihood that a fundraiser will close a Trust gift is very small in any given year. Moreover, the odds have been getting smaller as the number of charities has grown while the number of Trusts has declined.

Of course, that’s not quite how it works in the real world. In the real world, large organizations with large donor files containing plenty of wealthy supporters are far more likely to close Trust gifts than smaller organizations with smaller donor lists. If you don’t work at a large, established organization, the chances that you’ll close a Trust gift this year are miniscule.

 Trust Chart - 2015

While the dollars associated with Trust gifts are certainly significant, the actual number of such gifts is small. By contrast, far more people name a charity in their will, make beneficiary designations, give appreciated securities or personal property, or donate from their IRAs.

Keeping your eyes open for Trust-gift opportunities can be beneficial. However, you’re much more likely to close other types of planned gifts. This means:

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:

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:

May 25, 2015

Discover 5 of the Latest Trends Affecting Your Fundraising

Leading up to the 2015 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference, a number of my readers contacted me to request that I gather information about emerging fundraising trends. (Yes, I take requests, so feel free to make one.)

It’s not surprising that development professionals understand the need to stay on top of the evolution that takes place in the world of philanthropy. After all, as Benjamin Disraeli has said:

Change is inevitable. Change is constant.”

Recognizing that ongoing change is part of our life is one thing. Understanding what that change means and how to capitalize on it can help even good fundraisers become stars. As John F. Kennedy has stated:

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

None of us wants to miss the future.

So, with that thought in mind, I attended the session “Latest Trends in Giving and What They Mean for Your Organization” with presenters Stacy Palmer, Editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Jeff Wilklow, Vice President of Campbell & Company. Here are five of the key trends they cited:


Among very wealthy, very generous philanthropists, much of their giving does not go directly to existing charitable organizations. While their philanthropy will eventually find its way to charitable purposes, it will first be funneled through special funds or foundations that the mega-donors create or contribute to.

Money by 401(K) 2012 via FlickrMany of those who earned their fortunes through entrepreneurialism will gravitate toward entrepreneurial philanthropy. This is particularly true with younger technology entrepreneurs. With a do-it-yourself attitude, these individuals may choose to create a charity or socially-responsible business rather than donate to an existing, mainstream nonprofit organization.

In any case, big donors are interested in funding big ideas. They’re interested in big solutions to big problems. To attract the support of mega-donors, your charity will need to focus on creative solutions for large challenges.

Legacy Donors:

Many charitable organizations embrace the idea that planned giving equals endowment building. For example, many charities have adopted policies that direct bequest revenue into the organization’s endowment fund unless otherwise designated by donors.

While your organization might have a bias in favor of building endowment revenue, donors have a keen interest in their own legacy. Donors want to make a lasting difference. So, they will likely be more interested in funding your programs and initiatives that help establish their legacy than they will in simply having their money deposited into your organization’s investment pool.

Just as we see that current donors have a growing interest in gift designations rather than unrestricted giving, we see a similar interest among planned giving donors who want to ensure their legacies. Some donors want to be assured of having a long-term, definable impact while other might be content with having their name, or the name of a loved one, on an endowment fund. The key is to understand what motivates the individual.

Social Donors:

Donors communicate with your organization in a variety of ways thanks to new technologies. They also communicate with each other like never before.

Donors are online. And it’s not just young donors. They view your website, they engage in crowd funding, they give online, they take surveys, etc. Here are a few simple things you need to do to make sure those experiences inspire support:


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