Posted November 12th, 2018

Tips for Success in 2019

As we approach the end of 2018 and the beginning of a new year, the world around us continues to change. These changes will undoubtedly have a real impact on the way we pursue our future gift development efforts.

While there are many steps you might consider now to help ensure success next year and beyond, here are some ideas that deserve special attention.

Making a List and Checking It Twice


  • #GivingTuesday is November 27, 2018. Take advantage of the added publicity encouraging charitable giving.
    • Add a #GivingTuesday link to a prominent place on your home page, making it as easy as possible for donors to give.
    • Use the #GivingTuesday hashtag in your communications and encourage your donors to support your mission through your newsletters, digital marketing, social media channels and more.
    • Add a postscript to all of your email communications in the couple of weeks leading up to November 27 encouraging donors to give.
  • Fewer donors than in the past will itemize their charitable gifts. However, this group is expected to continue to be the largest source for individual gifts. After November 27, transition your communications from #GivingTuesday to “Give by December 31” messaging to remind them of the deadline for 2018 tax deductions.
  • Remind donors who are age 70½ or older to consider a Qualified Charitable Distribution from their IRAs if they haven’t yet taken their required minimum distribution for 2018.
  • Plan “thank you” communications in both digital and print form.

1. Start the new year strong.

Early next year, reach out to your top donors with a special thanks for their 2018 gifts and information on how to give effectively in 2019. Consider targeting certain groups for gifts most appropriate for them given their demographic profile and gift history:

  • Charitable IRA gifts early in the year
  • Noncash gifts such as stocks or other valuable property
  • Gifts through a will or trust and simple remainders
  • Gifts that can provide income to the donor or others.

2. Monitor economic conditions.

With no guarantee investment markets will remain at current levels and the possibility of a market correction or economic contraction in the future, donors who have concerns about financial volatility may prefer gift plans that offer a greater degree of certainty. Gift planning tools such as unitrusts that are more affected by ups and downs in investment markets may be less attractive than gift annuities or other plans that feature a fixed, predictable source of income.

Rising interest rates will also have an impact on charitable giving. They affect the amount of charitable deductions and disposable income for seniors. As a result, there may be increased interest in gift plans among older donors who wish to arrange fixed or variable income streams using gift annuities and other plans that provide income based on current market values.

3. Remember gifts of securities.

Gifts of publicly traded securities are a major source of philanthropic support for many institutions and the source of much of the increase in giving by individuals in recent years. Remind donors looking for the best ways to give that gifts of appreciated securities and other assets can yield special tax benefits whether or not donors itemize their tax deductions. Inform those who have newly appreciated or re-appreciated securities that it may be best to make gifts using this property and use their cash to diversify their investments or rebalance their portfolios.

4. Review gift acceptance policies to ensure they reflect today’s environment.

What will be accepted, who is authorized to accept gifts and provisions for named or restricted gifts are a few of the issues you may wish to periodically revisit. Time spent on solid policies today can prevent problems down the road. Make sure your minimum age and gift amounts still make sense. If you anticipate lower overall investment returns in coming years, it may be prudent to increase minimum ages and adjust the gift amounts accepted in order to reduce the risk of corpus or reserve fund exhaustion.

5. Review all marketing and donor communications materials.

Review communications materials in light of current economic conditions and any changes you may decide to make in minimum gift amounts, ages or types of property that are acceptable. Make sure that you are presenting examples that are still realistic. Prepare or purchase materials with a view toward shelf life. Look for materials that present useful information while “writing around” possible changes and avoid unnecessary detail that could render them obsolete in the event of economic fluctuations and/or changes in tax laws.

6. Stay on top of expectancies.

With increased charitable planning activity in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, now may be an important time to check in with your bequest and other planned gift expectancies. Remember that wills, trusts and beneficiary designations can be easily changed at any time. With the recent elimination of the estate tax for all but a fraction of 1% of estates, many donors can be expected to review their estate plans and possibly find that they have more assets to provide for their families, other individuals and their charitable interests. Take steps now to make sure you are top of mind when plans are reviewed.

Consider also that many donors often retain the right to change the beneficiary in the case of irrevocable charitable remainder trusts they create on their own with the help of their advisors.

7. Encourage repeat gifts and additional contributions.

As with bequest and other revocable gift donors, keep in contact with those who have already completed gift annuities, trusts and other irrevocable deferred gifts. They can be among your best candidates for new gifts. Many have found it is easier to motivate an additional gift annuity or contribution to an existing charitable remainder trust than to complete a first-time gift. Also keep in mind that some donors may no longer need the income that attracted them to a particular gift plan in the past and could in some cases redirect a portion of income being produced or partially or fully terminate the gift plan before the end of their lifetime or other time period they had previously provided for.

8. Be consistent in marketing activities.

Keep in mind it can take time for donors to become comfortable with planned gift concepts and that events in donors’ lives can determine their level of interest in a particular plan at any given time. That is why the quality and consistency of exposure to gift planning concepts can be more important than the quantity. Take the time to determine the appropriate group to receive information on various topics and put in place programs that ensure consistent exposure to the correct groups over time. Not only will this approach yield greater results, but it also may lead to a reduction in marketing expenses and more effective use of staff time.

9. Align board and management expectations.

Make certain that your management and volunteer leadership hold realistic expectations for what planned giving may mean for your organization or institution and the appropriate level of investment necessary to ensure maximum success.

Depending on the size of your constituency, age and wealth ranges and other factors, realistic expectations for income from bequests and other planned gifts and the timing of their receipt may be very different for various organizations. Be proactive in setting expectation levels so they may better reflect the success of your efforts.

10. Brush up on your understanding of the many factors that can motivate your donors.

Although tax and other financial considerations receive a lot of attention, they are rarely the primary motivation behind a gift. See “Putting Tax Motivations for Giving in Perspective.”

11. Integrate development efforts.

The future belongs to those who continually strive to make certain that various fund development efforts complement each other whenever possible. In times when both competition for the charitable dollar and expectations for results are rising, unnecessary and internal competition and conflict will be more costly than ever.

12. Don’t forget that the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve is the most generous time of the year.

Act early in the year to make sure your solicitation channels are operating and open for business online, through personal visits and by direct mail and telephone.

13. Plan now for any training or development you or your staff may need in the coming year.

As 2019 approaches, we may find we have come full circle to the point where mission and stewarding relationships are in the forefront. Knowledge about gift plans is no longer a secondary consideration, but will be assumed as an integral component to a comprehensive development program.

Sharpe seminars continue to be the top-rated and best-attended training opportunities for gift planners whose goal is to take an integrated, donor-centered approach to fund development. Click here for details.

A minimal amount of time invested in careful planning and coordination of your activities now can help ensure success in 2019 and result in abundant dividends in the coming years.

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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