Role-Playing the Planned Giving Conversation | Sharpe Group
Posted May 1st, 2024

Role-Playing the Planned Giving Conversation

As a consultant, I am sometimes asked for assistance that requires a creative approach.

Recently, a client asked me to prepare an elevator pitch for their board members. Some of their board had indicated it would be helpful to have some talking points when they were in social situations.

My client and I shared a chuckle as we agreed that it would be quite infrequent—and maybe even awkward—to find yourself discussing estate planning at a cocktail party. Nevertheless, I decided it could be a useful exercise to demonstrate how you can discuss planned giving opportunities without using terminology that may not resonate with those unfamiliar with charitable giving.

While this situation may be rare, and board members should not be directly soliciting gifts without the support of experienced staff, there are key points that can be taught. The focus should be on addressing the following questions:

  1. Why do you want to make a gift like this?
  2. What area do you want to support?
  3. Do you know how you would like to make the gift?
  4. When would you like to make the gift (e.g., now, in the future, both)?

Here’s where we get creative with some role-playing. I encouraged the director of development and the executive director to act out a scene that might take place.

The Cocktail Party

Nancy: Cynthia, it’s so great to see you! It has been too long. What have you been up to?

Cynthia: I’m great. Busy spending time with the grandkids and getting more involved with my volunteer work.

Nancy: That’s wonderful! What kind of volunteer work?

Cynthia: I’m a board member of the Cancer Assistance Society. I got involved when my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she started attending their support groups. It was a lifesaver for her and her family, and I wanted to give back.

Nancy: What other programs do they have besides support groups?

Cynthia: They have art classes, fitness classes and nutrition education for all ages. Some of their most popular offerings are the counseling and stress-management programs. They even conduct programs in Spanish. And it’s all free!

Nancy: How are they able to do that?

Cynthia: They receive some grants and hold a lot of fundraising events. They also count on people like me for financial support. I used to make annual gifts with cash, but ever since I turned 73, I have made my gifts from my IRA. You’re around my age, right?

Nancy: I am. My financial advisor told me about that. It’s called a QCD, right?

Cynthia: Exactly! Since I now must take withdrawals from my retirement account, I make QCDs directly to the Cancer Assistance Society and other charities I support, and I don’t have to pay taxes on those amounts.

Cynthia: I also went online and made the Cancer Assistance Society a beneficiary of my retirement account. If I left it to my kids, they would have to pay taxes. I plan to leave them some of my other assets instead.

Nancy: This information is so helpful. How do you know all of this?

Cynthia: The organization has a great website that explains all the ways to make gifts. Of course, you can write a check, but there are so many assets that can be donated to charity—appreciated stock, a gift from a donor advised fund or a bequest through your will. It all depends on what you have, what you need in terms of income or tax benefits and when you want to make a gift.

Nancy: I am so glad we ran into each other! My family has been affected by cancer too. I’m excited to learn more. Please introduce me to their leadership so I can get more involved!

End Scene and Take a Bow

Sharpe Group Consultant Julie Schuldner

Julie Schuldner, MBA, CFRE, is a Sharpe Group senior consultant. You can connect with Julie at or via LinkedIn.

Learn from Julie at the Advanced Gift Planning seminar in Chicago, May 14-15, 2024.

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