It’s time for me to fall on my sword.
Yesterday I wrote a post titled, “Is CEO in your legacy society?”
My good friend Greg Lassonde (one of the most battle-tested, veteran legacy giving experts in the U.S.) quickly wrote a very thoughtful response that I think you should read. It’s so “smart” that I see no reason to edit it. Please read it below so you, too, can learn from one of the best.
“….why promoting 100% board participation in your organization’s legacy society is almost never a good idea, and why it may not make sense for a CEO or key development officer to be a legacy society member either.
Over the years I have heard occasional proponents of the idea that board / CEO / legacy staff / legacy giving committee should also be legacy society members. Only one is correct, members of the volunteer legacy giving committee, which I would suggest should be mandatory.
Board members should be solicited, but not those who are both new to the board and the organization. You would generally not make a one-on-one ask to any level donor who is new to your organization. Why would you treat a board member differently. I can’t convey strongly enough that it will be a major mistake for the legacy giving program to project a goal of 100% board participation. Such a position is not well thought through. What is appropriate for annual fundraising, is out of place in legacy giving.
First off, making a legacy gift is a highly personal decision. Some people don’t want to leave any estate gifts to charity. Others have a different favorite charity(ies) in mind, and yours may not make the cut off.
Second, some board members are recruited for an institutional connection. The Company risks putting these important members in an awkward situation for what is a corporate “seat.”
Third, implying to board members that they can make a small legacy gift to reach 100% participation both cheapens the gift, and is a slight to other board members who are genuinely making the commitment. It’s not too far akin from planned giving and other staff who make a legacy gift to their employer of a benefit, such as long-term health care, knowing that the gift evaporates when the employee leaves the organization. This is just the opposite of thoughtful.
Fourth, there may be board members whose association with the nonprofit is not yet long enough. It’s not respectful to them to force them to act through a long term plan with a short term relationship.
I do believe that most board members should be asked, probably all in an organization just starting a legacy program. For most organizations, achieving 50% legacy society participation would be great, perhaps higher is possible.
Now, more about the CEO / development officer legacy society member suggestion. In addition to many of the reasons above, add on to that that staff typically work in several organizations over a career. The worst version of making a legacy gift, and I’ve heard of this one several times unfortunately, is the staff person who uses a beneficiary designation of a benefit that disappears, along with the legacy gift, as soon as employment terminates. Think insurance, such as long term disability. Is this the kind of attitude we want staff to have when approaching our supporters to make a thoughtful decision on their own? I would suggest this approach cheapens legacy giving. It’s form over substance.
Now how do I really feel about this whole topic, you might ask?!”
Yep! Greg Warner got schooled by Greg Lassonde.
What I was really trying to say in my original post was this: I wish more organizations had more devoted CEO’s, board members, and staff that love the mission so much that they are willing to include the organization in their estate plans.
I obviously missed the mark! Thank you Greg Lassonde!
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