Spring Cleaning for Gift Planners | npENGAGE

Spring Cleaning for Gift Planners

By on Apr 27, 2012


April in Colorado (where I live) is a magical time.  Winter’s snow has ended, trees are budding, daffodils and tulips are blooming.  I can’t think of anything else but “Spring Cleaning, “and I’ve been itching to get it done.  It’s time to “freshen up” my house, which means:  cleaning out the closets of ill-fitting clothes, changing winter’s flannel sheets to Egyptian cotton, carpet cleaning, sweeping out the dusty garage, wiping out the refrigerator, taking unwanted items to the local charity resale shop and propping both the back and the front doors open to let in the fresh air.  I can hear the birds singing from dusk to dawn and they make me want to sing as well.  “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay.  My, oh, my, what a wonderful day!”

Okay, okay.  So it’s not quite as enjoyable as a Disney movie but when I’m done, I always feel so much better, renewed and lighter for some reason!  If you’re like me once you make up your mind to get started you throw your whole mind and body into the task.   Whew!  It’s exhausting just to make a list of everything that I’d like to get done, should get done and must get done.   Not too unlike the task of making a “Spring Cleaning” list for your planned giving activity.

I know, I know.  Your eyes have already rolled once and you’re about to do it again; but wait!  I’ve done some of the heavy lifting for you – and while you’re in the mood to freshen things up, I have a list that you’ll find easy to accomplish.   Take a minute to look it over, print this blog posting and commit to tackling each item before May 15th.  I’ve even included a place for your signature to memorialize your commitment.  If you do this, I promise that your planned giving program will benefit; and, like slipping onto those Egyptian cotton sheets for the first time, you’re going to say “Ah!” and release a renewing sigh when you step back and see the progress that you’ve made in such a short time.

  • Cleanse your conscience:  Pull out the hard copy contact sheets and phone call notes that you’ve written over the past three months and enter those notes and activities into your organization’s CRM system.  You and I both know that they belong there and that it’s time to get your electronic filing system in order.  From now on you’re going to do it this way.  No more secondary filing system.  Everything – everything now goes into its rightful place in the constituent record within 2 days of your contact or visit.
  • Freshen up your contact approach:  Purchase note cards that say “Thank You” or that has your initial(s) on them.  Don’t forget the matching envelopes.  Buy stamps and a nice-to-write-with pen.  If you don’t know where to buy such things, ask your wife, your girlfriend, your teen-age daughter or your departmental administrative assistant.  I’m assuming if you need help to do this, that you’re a guy.  The women all know where to find these items and we’ve probably already got them – so dig ‘em out of the guestroom closet or dresser and bring them into the office.  Each day for the next two weeks, choose a different person and write a handwritten note to him or her.  This can be a member of your Board of Directors or Trustees, Development Committee, senior staff member, professor, long-term donor, volunteer, planned gift donor or planned gift prospect.  You can keep adding to this list.  The people you are writing to should be people you’ll seek to visit in the next 3 months.  Thank them for their commitment of expertise to the organization, thank them for their long-years of service, thank them for their many gifts of support – just THANK THEM and put in your business card.  End by saying that you look forward to seeing them soon to thank them in person.  Now set two days on your calendar, 30 days from now, to call those same people and seek to visit them.
  • Lighten your load:   Create a “Gratitude Team” at your office.  Ask 5 people to help you make phone calls every month to 5 people each.  You’re asking them to say “Thank You.”  If they need a little script to get them started, create one.  Using the list you started above, design a query that you’ll pull each month that produces 25 or more names of people you can call to thank.  Simply thank them.  You can revise and refine the list later.  You’ll start thinking of groups of people that are ripe for these “thank you” calls and you’ll add them.  In fact, you’ll start adding to the “Gratitude Team” as well.  Once your callers start to tell others how much they enjoy making the calls, others will want to make them too.  Soon, you’ll be calling 100 or more people a month, just to say “Thank You”.  Be certain to ask your colleagues to take notes and to provide them back, so that you can have them entered into the CRM.  Yes, the CRM – that place where you are now tracking all activity and contact with your constituents.   Be especially vigilant about adding codes for interest areas, age, email addresses, notices of planned gifts and other items that your constituents will surely share on these calls.
  • Organize yourself before asking others:  Make your own planned gift.  This is actually, the easiest and quickest item of the list.  It’s also the most important one.  EVERYONE needs to check-off this item.  Here’s how easy it is:  Tomorrow, first thing.  Go on the Internet to your personal life insurance policy site or your group life insurance policy site or your retirement plan site and navigate to the Beneficiary Designation Form page.  Change your form to include a gift to the organization where you work or one where you volunteer, or where you attended school, or where your loved one was treated or where you worship.  You PICK!  Put the organization in as a recipient of an amount that is appropriate for you.  I can’t tell you what that is.  Maybe it’s an exact amount such as $1,000 or $5,000 or $10,000 or more.  Perhaps it’s a percentage such as 1% or 10% or more.   Again, you PICK!  You may want to make certain that you have the legal name of the organization you are naming – so call them or get on their website first and get the legal name.

So, that’s it.  There is nothing too hard or too complicated here.  My list of “Planned Gift Spring Cleaning” may be the only one-size-fits-all solution that will ever exist in the gift-planning realm.  But it makes sense and anyone can do it:  young and mature, newbie and pro.  We all know that outreach and communication is the key – I repeat, the key – to the success of any planned giving program and this short checklist outlines basic strategies that will help you clean-up, reach-out  and stay-organized with easy-to-maintain-and-grow strategies.

Okay, so it’s time to print and sign your name.  Your commitment is that you’ll do these four things by May 15th.

I hereby commit to “Spring Cleaning” my planned giving activity by May 15, 2012.  Furthermore, I will contact Katherine Swank at Blackbaud to let her know that I’ve completed all of the aforementioned tasks on time. 

Signature: ______________________________________________________________________

If you start singing “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah” let me know; I’ll arrange for choir practice at the Blackbaud Conference for Nonprofits held later this year so we can all meet one another and share our success stories.  I know you’ll have them!  In fact, put me on your call or e-card list and get going on your clean-up.  Here’s my info:   843-670-7278 or Katherine.swank@blackbaud.com.


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 a retired affiliate faculty member of Regis University’s master of Global Nonprofit Management degree program, where she taught 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 NACGP, 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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