You’ve got a planned giving program in place. Check.
You’ve amped up your marketing and generated a healthy pipeline of planned gift prospects. Check. Check.
But, you soon realize, you’ve also got a board that thinks planned giving is too hard to understand or simply not an organizational priority.
They check out whenever the subject comes up.
If they do, a few reality checks may be in order to get them thinking in a new direction.
Why? According to a 2011 Morgan Stanley report, a growing number of nonprofits are successfully using planned giving, and it’s often responsible for more than half of new capital campaigns. Planned gifts are also among the largest gifts a nonprofit will receive—200 to 300 times the size of annual gifts.
Start here to re-ignite the planned giving conversation with your board …
Reality Check #1: How committed—and how passionate—are your board members about your organization? Are they willing to “go to the mat,” so to speak, for the cause and the people you serve? Most important, do they want your nonprofit’s work to live on for future generations?
Get them re-engaged:
- Schedule a time to talk with every board member. Breakfast, lunch, an in-office visit or in-home chat, wherever you meet, use the time to assess their level of commitment and lead into planned giving. Find out ahead of time if they have completed a planned gift. If they have, thank them for their gift. If they haven’t, dig deeper to discover hesitations or how you can help them complete the gift to ensure it meets their philanthropic goals. Mention recognition opportunities and/or becoming a legacy society member if they aren’t already one. Finally, ask for their opinion about how to strengthen the organization’s gift planning program.
TIP: Thank board members for their time and service. Include a specific example of an especially creative or good idea or example of leadership that they’ve shown in board meetings or as a representative of your nonprofit. It shows them that you’re paying attention.
- After one-on-one meetings, lead a larger discussion at a board meeting about why members joined in the first place. What’s their motivating driver as a group? Discuss the potential pitfalls if your nonprofit ceased to exist in the community. The goal: Renew their spirit and conviction for the cause.
TIP: Include short talks by program recipients or videos/photos to add real-life impact.
Reality Check #2: Have board members completed their own planned gifts? Until they do, they can’t talk the talk or have the same expectations of others in terms of advocating for planned giving and encouraging others to do the same. Remind them of two things: The importance of leadership by example and how easy it can be to make a planned gift. Start with a bequest to your organization.
Get them re-engaged:
- Get those one-on-one meetings scheduled with board members. Here you can do your most promising work. Talk more in-depth about your board member’s philanthropic goals—what’s her vision for giving—and different planned giving vehicles that might best meet her needs and bring her vision to fruition. Follow up, if necessary, by putting her in touch with the right professionals who can set up and manage the gift to its fullest potential.
NOTE: Feel free to switch up the order of how you do things. If you feel it’d be more effective for your board’s group dynamic, start with the larger discussion and then schedule one-on-one meetings with board members. The key: Do what works for your group and their myriad levels of interest and expertise in planned giving.
Reality Check #3: Are you emphasizing planned giving enough at your board meetings? Do you devote enough time for it at every board meeting, sending the message that planned giving deserves their time and attention?
- Devote 15-20 minutes of each board meeting to discuss a planned giving topic. Consider role-playing scenarios with prospective donors or how to handle a “no” from hesitant or disgruntled supporter.
TIP: Bring in an expert to talk about more complex planned gifts or a recipient of a planned gift. Show cause and effect: With the planned gift, they’re supporting the organization’s future work and generations.
- Regularly share articles, podcasts, videos and more—to continue motivating board members and inspire them to want to talk with others about the benefits of making a planned gift.
Reality Check #4: Are you making planned giving too technical or well, just too boring, leading board members to tune out?
- Persuade them to want to talk about planned giving, with terms and ideas they can embrace. Keep it simple. In conversation, avoid “planned giving” and instead use phrases like “estate gift,” “make a gift in your will” or “leave your legacy to XYZ organization.” Remember, “planned giving” is not a familiar term to most people, including some of your board members.
Reality Check #5: Still have board members who are reluctant to talk about planned giving or make a gift themselves?
Get them engaged:
- Ask them if they’re willing to start someplace else, like calling new legacy (or planned gift) donors to thank them for their gift. It’s an innocent enough first step and makes everyone feel good. The donor feels validated and recognized, and the board member begins to feel more comfortable about talking about planned giving and supporting it with their own gift. The goal is to create a seamless transition from thanking others for their gifts to creating their own planned gift.
- Ask them if they’ll serve on your legacy advisory committee, if you have one. This is a great way for board members to dip their toes into the world of planned giving. They can help set policy and guidelines, and learn more planned giving tools, strategies and successes. By learning more, and becoming immersed in the language, hesitant board members may become motivated to create their own gift and/or encourage loved ones, friends and colleagues to do the same.
The essence of planned giving is perhaps the most satisfying for us in this “business” of fundraising: When you sit and really get to know prospective donors and their philanthropic wishes, you become the matchmaker, the conduit to helping them create a meaningful legacy that they can be proud of.
And that’s a good feeling anyone, especially board members, can understand.
How about your past or present board? You probably have great ideas about how to revive their interest or get them motivated about planned giving. What’s worked for you?