Posted April 1st, 2016

Gift Planning Tips From the Bard

Shakespeare books

April marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Though coined hundreds of years ago, many of the phrases and idioms we use today come directly from his writings. Here are a few lessons from the playwright that we may apply to gift planning.

“Wisely and slow, they stumble that run fast.”—Romeo and Juliet

In our experience, those who enjoy the greatest success in major and planned gift development succeed in part because they spend the time necessary to learn and understand not only the “who” and “why” of the gift, but also the basics of the “what,” “when” and “how” of the giving process and understand the patience that can be required to steward these relationships.

“All that glisters* is not gold.” —The Merchant of Venice 

Beware of gifts that seem too good to be true and those who are promoting them. Many gifts can be very advantageous for donors and charities alike, but there is no “free lunch” where charitable gifts are concerned and donors rarely, if ever, “come out ahead” making charitable gifts. Charities may find that some gifts are simply not worth the cost of accepting and administering them.

“A man loves meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age.”—Much Ado About Nothing

There is a natural relationship between timing and types of gifts. Where a donor is in his or her lifecycle impacts the type and amount he or she gives. Understanding this lifecycle is a key piece to identifying prospective planned gift donors. Knowing the ages of your donors is vital. Gifts that make sense in one stage of life may not be possible or prudent at other points in time.

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”—Julius Caesar

Donor stewardship is essential to gift planning. Studies show this common misperception: Once a person makes a will leaving a charitable bequest, he or she is not likely to change it. That is false. Make sure you remain in contact with your donors and express appreciation so that you are in the final will, which is most often created within one to five years of a person’s death.

“A thousand times good night.”—Romeo and Juliet

Ongoing communication is the key to reaching people as they make their plans. Mailings, articles in your donor communications and informational meetings for people who give (where possible) are proven ways to build interest in gift planning.

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”—Julius Caesar

And your eyes, too, where possible. Donor stories including photos and other visuals are particularly effective in communications such as newsletters and web communications.

“They do not love that do not show their love.”—The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Experienced fundraisers know that for their efforts to be most effective, it is vital to retain donors acquired through the years. One of the best ways to increase retention and the amount donors give over time is to make sure you don’t take your past donors for granted. Make certain you promptly and properly thank those donors.

“Go to your bosom; Knock there and ask your heart what it doth know.”—Measure for Measure

Especially when dealing with a senior population, it is important to have a good code of ethics. When the issues are muddy, one way to test the ethics is to listen to what your heart (or your stomach) may be telling you. Also test your behavior by standards you would set for dealings with your own relatives.

“For mine own part, it was Greek to me.”—Julius Caesar

While “philanthropy” may be a Greek word, gift planners do not need to know all of the technical details of every gift possibility. Donors most often only need to know the basics of what a gift plan can accomplish, not necessarily all the details of how it works. Call on professional advisors to supplement your skills. ■

For more tips on gift planning, attend one of Sharpe’s highly rated seminars this year or consider having one of our consultants speak to your organization or group. Click here to contact us for more information.

*Editor’s note, “glisters” is a 17th-century synonym of “glitters.” It is the word used in the original Shakespeare writing, though today this saying has become “glitters” or “glistens.” Read more here.  

The publisher of Give & Take is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Give & Take may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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