Posted July 1st, 1998

Taking Advantage of Summer

Summer is a relaxed season that often involves spending time with family, enjoying outdoor activities and perhaps a well-deserved vacation. While it seems every month of the year is full of activity, for many the summer months are generally a time of a slightly slower pace that may provide an opportunity to reflect on the successes of the past and address the challenges of the future. Summer is an excellent time to plan for your personal future, strategize for your organization, and set goals for your funding efforts. Consider taking time to engage in a few of the following activities prior to what will be a traditionally busy fall.

Evaluate your planned giving marketing strategy

If your program is established and you have good records, research gifts that have matured for your organization such as gifts by will, charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts, etc., and use the information to help fine tune your marketing strategies. As part of your analysis, determine the age of these individuals at the time they established their planned gift, how old they were at death, and what their giving history may have been over the course of their life. The objective of this activity is to build a donor profile showing who is choosing to make these special gifts to your institution and, just as important for many, when they are deciding to do so. Consider these questions: Is there a pattern evident in number of gifts or years on file? Are donors making the decision to include your institution in their estate plans while in their seventies? Are these donors dying in their eighties? The answers to these questions will help you build a profile of likely prospects among your constituency and help you in deciding what material to send to these particular donors. Your objective should be to send the right material promoting the right gift to the right people at the right time in their lives.

Finalize plans for communications at year-e n d

By now, you may already have plans in place. For many donors, the end of the year is a time to review financial affairs. For some, it is a time when compensation bonuses representing a significant portion of annual income are received. Virtually anyone planning a gift this year can benefit from a reminder to have the gift completed by December 31. Perhaps you are planning to insert brochures in thank-you letters or pledge reminders, or maybe you have developed a special mailing to current contributors who have traditionally given cash. Whatever your plans may be, now is the time to make sure the details of your communication with donors are in process.

Contact special donors and prospects

Calling and visiting prospects and donors is, of course, an important year-round activity. While some of your major gift prospects and donors may be on vacation or otherwise occupied during summer months, there may be others for whom summer is a downtime. Some individuals may be more receptive to a call or visit during this time. Use any extra time you have this summer to catch up with those who have not reached your highest priority list during the busiest months of the year.

Review your acknowledgment system

Use every opportunity to simply say thanks. Say thank you in your telephone conversations, your visits, and in your letters and notes. Consider thanking family members and professional advisors of estate maturities and notifications. Make sure that your institution’s acknowledgment system thanks even the smallest of donors, as long-term donors of relatively modest amounts are often among the best bequest prospects. Remember that your acknowledgment system is the foundation upon which many future gifts will be built! Developing a short list of activities, including many items that are generally “put on the back burner” most of the year due to limited time, may offer benefits for many years to come. Decide on those goals which you can realistically accomplish to make this summer an especially rewarding season.

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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