By: Barlow Mann
Almost every charitable organization can benefit from additional planned giving revenue. The key to maximizing results is to periodically review and fine-tune your efforts to encourage this important source of income.
Finding a right balance
Many fundraisers find that their time is split, sometimes quite unevenly, between long-term fundraising efforts and short-term plans and events. Even full-time planned giving officers can find that a large portion of their time is devoted to other responsibilities. In some cases, fundraisers discover that the catch-all phrase from their job descriptions—“and such other duties as may be assigned”—over time begins to account for a large portion of their responsibilities.
While the range of activities will vary dramatically depending on an organization’s structure, a growing number of successful fundraising operations are doing a better job of integrating planned giving into their time allocation in light of their overall fundraising efforts. Achieving the right balance for your organization or institution may require some trial and error, but the payoff will be well worth the effort.
Let’s consider different organizational models that will work for institutions of various types and sizes. Which model would be most effective at your institution?
In this structure, an executive director, president or CEO has overall management responsibilities, including fundraising. This individual typically understands the basics about planned giving but often has limited time and resources to devote to this activity. Someone in this position should be able to manage a small number of self-identified planned giving prospects and communicate planned giving messages in institutional communications and on their website.
At least one staff member, such as a vice president or director of development, has primary responsibility for overall gift development. Planned giving efforts in this model are often one component of an overall gift development framework. In addition to planned giving ads and articles in existing publications, there may also be periodic special communications on gift planning subjects. The development officer in the context of this model may rely on volunteers or outside consultants for assistance. Since this individual is responsible for overall fundraising efforts, he or she may be able to manage relationships with a limited, though significant, number of planned giving donors and prospects.
In addition to a chief development officer, one or more staff members are responsible for charitable gift planning. There may be a dedicated director of planned giving or gift planning. In addition to the activities described in Models 1 and 2, staff members will likely manage a more targeted planned gift marketing program that may include regularly scheduled mailings, telephone calls, visits, emails, meetings and a special recognition society for donors who have included the organization in their estate plans. Staff members will also actively “coach” and otherwise assist others at the organization who may have contact with potential donors.
In addition to the chief development staff, one or more staff members are assigned to work with major donors. There is no specialist in charitable gift planning. Instead, the organization will typically incorporate planned giving messages into the overall communication strategy and perhaps use an outside consultant or firm to assist with gift planning publications or web content. The major gift officers should have enough training and experience to understand the basics of gift planning and are assigned both planned and major gift donors.
This model may include individuals who work primarily in either planned or major gifts or one or more fundraising officers who are responsible for both current and deferred gifts. In the latter case, staff members with a higher degree of specialization will sometimes be assigned primary planned gift development responsibility. He or she may manage the planned giving program, have a portfolio of donors and be a resource for others who are cross-trained.
This model features a centralized development staff with gift planning specialists that work with institution-wide donors and support various divisions and their associated staff with varying degrees of gift planning expertise.
While not exhaustive, this overview should provide a range of possible—and perhaps more effective—ways to structure your gift planning efforts and encourage additional planned gifts. The key is to determine what is feasible given your unique situation and then create a plan that will become a vital part of your ongoing fundraising efforts.
For more on organizational options, consider attending an upcoming Sharpe seminar, “Integrating Major and Planned Gifts”.