Before you read any further, take out a piece of paper and write down as many characteristics as you can think of that describe your organization’s perfect prospect for a planned gift.   Mind you, I’m betting you a $1 that you’ll miss a key, under-mentioned, criterion that’s within the list.  Okay, the clock is ticking, start writing! …………

Keep writing …………. Write a little bit more…………..

Think of two more characteristics ………….

………..Okay, time’s up!

Planned Giver Characteristics

At Target Analytics, we’ve studied planned givers for more than two decades and regularly update the ever-changing profile that uniquely distinguishes them from the non-planned giver.  Here’s the list:

  • Are at certain life-stages, including when we start to accumulate assets, begin a family, reach our peak earning years and near retirement age;
  • Exhibit financially conservative habits such as low credit card balances and  low or no mortgage, paying bills on time and keeping open credit accounts established earlier in life;
  • Changing residence by downsizing, purchasing a dream home (but still maintain a low mortgage) or moving to a new area or state;
  • Living alone or with one other person (consider this a life-stage characteristic as well);
  • Giving consistently to the organizations to which they provide a planned gift.

Implicit in the last characteristic are donors of all types: direct mail and direct response, annual fund, special campaigns, major donors and……. wait for it…… event donors and participants.  That’s right!  It’s not the kind of donor that makes a good planned giving prospect – it’s the consistency in giving – especially in the past three years – that usually tips the scale in the planned gift favor.

So did I win your $1?  Or did you use the title of this article to guess that event donors played a role?  So now I owe you a buck.

Let’s settle our bet at the end and take a few minutes to consider how best to engage and cultivate event donors for planned gifts.

Ideas to Engage Event Donors in the Planned Giving Discussion

  1. Expose them to the idea and concept of planned gifts:
    • Include a planned gift donor story in your event packet when you’ve got little time to engage walkers, runners, stair-climbers, bicyclists and the like.  Let them know that not only events, but also thoughtful legacy donations have an impact at the organization
    • Use strategically placed banners, posters, standing bow-flags, table-tents and event program inserts at banquets, dinners, galas and annual meetings.
  2. Treat them like friends of the organization and not just friends of your friend:
    • Remove internal barriers to engaging with your event donors by crediting each and every one of them for their own gift, no matter how large or small.  You don’t know who has donated consistently if you only credit gifts to your fundraiser and not the actual donor;
    • Send a thank you letter to every event donor, no matter the size of the gift.  You might be able to use social media avenues for thanking if you collect names, addresses, phone and email when the gift is given, at registration or during the event itself;
    • Allow the participant to choose on their own if they want to connect with you.  Provide a way to sign up for e-alerts, text-message updates, e-communications and other organizational publications.
  3. Thank them through a giving or recognition list that includes the names of loyal event donors as well as loyal and high-level fundraisers:
    • Consistent event donors can become planned gift donors, but only if they feel a connection to the organization.  It costs nothing (or very little) to include these names on a list you’re already preparing;
      • If you need to seek their permission first, great!  It allows you to start the direct relationship through that activity.
    • Consider mixing it up!  Once a year publish a full list of donors on your web-site that includes planned givers as well as consistent event donors.  Don’t hide your planned gift donors at the end of the list.  Instead, put them near the beginning.  Since we tend to read the first page or first screen and grow less-interested as we flip pages or scroll down, make a loud and clear statement that you want, accept and appreciate planned gifts.  This cross-pollination is important.  You want all of your current donors to see the various ways in which you seek support.
  4. Place a personal call to your consistent event donors:
    • Yep!  That’s right.  Call ‘em! Say “thank you”.  Ask if they’d like to get communications about the organization and through which avenue or avenues they prefer (print, email, text, etc.).   Relationships are built by two-way communication and these donors may become some of your best friends.
    • You must remember and embrace that fact the fundraising events are beginnings and not endings.  When the event has concluded, it’s time to say “Welcome” to new acquaintances, “Thank you” to long-time friends, and “Let’s get together again” to those who appear to want to connect.
    • Think of all the ways an event donor may want to engage and offer them the opportunity:
      • Fundraiser
      • Volunteer
      • Docent
      • Volunteer leadership
      • Community advocate
      • Annual donor
      • Planned gift donor, etc.

Settling Up the Bet

So who owes who in our little wager?

If I won your dollar, please add it on to your annual donation to an organization of your choice.  How’s that for a sweet win-win arrangement?

If you won mine, let me know.  I’ll be adding the readers’ collective winnings to my own annual donation to the University of Arizona’s Egyptian Expedition.  You can share your own story of how you engage event donors to consider planned gifts and also tell me who won the bet at Katherine.Swank@Blackbaud.com.  I’ll report the wager’s outcome in a future blog.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katherine Swank, JD, senior consultant at Target Analytics, a Blackbaud Company, helps nonprofits apply statistical analytics and donor research to their fundraising efforts with an emphasis on planned gifts. She has raised nearly $250 million for mission funding during her nonprofit development career. Katherine is an affiliate faculty member of Regis University’s master of Global Nonprofit Management degree program, teaching courses on wealth and philanthropy.  Along with writing for publications like Advancing Philanthropy and Philanthropy Journal, she is also a frequent presenter for industry conferences such as NCPG, AFP, APRA, and bbcon. Having grown up in a tourist destination in Colorado, Katherine has become an avid world traveler and is exploring her way through the 1,000 places to see before you die, albeit slowly.  Connect with her on Twitter @KatherineSwank.

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