Here's why when it comes to planned gifts, it isn't necessarily ALL about the relationship

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Greg Warner is CEO and Founder of MarketSmart, a revolutionary marketing software and services firm that helps nonprofits raise more for less. In 2012 Greg coined the phrase “Engagement Fundraising” to encapsulate his breakthrough fundraising formula for achieving extraordinary results. Using their own innovative strategies and technologies, MarketSmart helps fundraisers around the world zero in on the donors most ready to support their organizations and institutions with major and legacy gifts.

I have two questions that I ask people when they say that planned gift fundraising “is all about the relationship.”
I ask, “How many gifts did you/your organization receive last year that ‘came over the transom’? I also ask, “How many were not previously disclosed to you before you got the money or the call from the attorney?”
The answer is always something like, “70%, 80% or 90%.”
After that, my reply usually packs a bit of a punch.  
I ask, “So if it’s ‘all about the relationship,’ how come you and your organization didn’t know about so many gifts?”
I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s just that I don’t believe you can say that planned gift fundraising is ‘all about the relationship’ while, at the same time, have no idea about the vast proportion of gifts that have been planned for your nonprofit. Those two things don’t add up.
So what’s the point of this post?

  1. I think we need to stop kidding ourselves and giving ourselves too much credit.
  2. Yet, I think we need to recognize that a solid relationship with a supporter, advocate or member will definitely affect their legacy planning decisions. In that regard, solid, personal, 1-to-1 relationships are essential.
  3. But, finally, we need to embrace the fact that the relationship is usually first and foremost with the organization and its mission (at least 70%, 80% or 90% of the time), not necessarily the fundraiser. By doing so, and by using technologies and strategies that enhance that relationship, you’ll generate more planned gifts to support your cause.


Related Posts:

>> 10 Steps to Developing A Planned Giving Program
>> Want more planned gifts? Focus on why not how

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Charles O'Neil
5 years ago

Good post. Thanks. I agree strongly with number 3. That is why I believe that marketing is so important. Getting the message out to people in as many ways as possible will strengthen the relationship between donor and an organization’s cause. And yes, donor visits are important and if we can get in front of donors so much the better. But one to one meetings are time consuming and limit the number of contacts we can make. Visits should be mainly reserved for those donors that our marketing efforts have identified as good prospects.

Greg Warner
5 years ago

Well said Charles. Thanks for the “ataboy”!

5 years ago

Thank you for this reality check, Greg. The educational institution where I am privileged to work has, what I perceive to be, an inordinately high percentage of donors – both current and deferred, who prefer to remain anonymous.
During a recent crowd funding campaign, almost 23% of faculty, staff, and administrators who gave wished to remain anonymous, and almost 8% of our alumni donors did as well.
Last year, we had approximately 40% of our matured planned gifts (bequests, trust and beneficiary designations) come from alumni and friends who had not previously informed us of their intentions.
As much as we all like to “carry the big salad” (apologies for the Seinfeldism) when the seven figure plus gifts come rolling in, it is good to be reminded that the gifts which actually were as a result of our efforts are still “growing in the fields and will be part of a future harvest.”

Greg Warner
5 years ago
Reply to  Scott

Wow Scott. Fascinating data points. Thanks for sharing!

Sharon Wangman
5 years ago

l agree. Great post Greg. Donors connect with the organisation in the first instance not the individual. Through consistent stewardship the bequest may increase, but it is the donors personal values that guides to include a gift in their Will. Bequest Managers come and go, but the mission and vision of the organisation remains.

Greg Warner
5 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Wangman

Thanks Sharon. Hope all is well down under.

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