5 Reality Checks: Is Your Board On Board with Planned Giving?

We need money in the door today.

Heard that before? If you have a board that thinks planned giving is too long a wait, too hard to understand, or simply feels that planned giving is not an organizational priority, you’re not alone.

The problem is so prolific—and the solution so important—that the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners (CGP) made “Support from the Top” one of the three categories in their National Standards for Gift Planning Success.

Yes, I’ve blogged about the standards before, and I’ll do it again, because I’m quite proud to have played a small part as a Board Member for CGP and now as Co-Chair of the NSGPS Task Force. Stelter’s own Lynn Gaumer, JD, our senior gift planning consultant, has also been involved with the standards as the incoming Chair of the CGP Leadership Institute.

So yeah, unlike the boards we’re describing today, we’re invested in planned giving’s success.

Time for the Reality Checks

If you have a board that looks bored when planned giving comes up, a few reality checks may be in order.

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?

Ways to engage them:
  • Thank them. 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.
  • Regularly share impact. Ensure that storytelling is part of your routine and that the voices and stories of your organization’s good work are shared.
  • Schedule a time to talk individually. Assess your board members’ level of commitment. Find out ahead of time if they have completed a planned gift. If they have, thank them. If they haven’t, see Reality Check #4.

Reality Check #2: Are you emphasizing planned giving enough at your board meetings? Do you devote enough time for it, sending the message that planned giving deserves their time and attention?

Ways to engage them:
  • 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 a hesitant or disgruntled supporter. 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.
  • Show value, value, value. Why is planned giving worth it? Share meaningful stats and news items whenever you can, perhaps as a quick email or add-on to the meeting agenda: “I just came across this article about boomers’ motivations behind legacy gifts. We’ll be talking more about it at our next meeting. Please come with thoughts, because your insights are helpful.”

Reality Check #3: Are you making planned giving too technical or too boring?

Ways to engage them:
  • Use terms and ideas they can embrace. Keep it simple. Use phrases like “asset-based giving,” “estate gift,” “make a gift in your will” or “leave your legacy.”
  • Share your vision. What will community needs be in five, ten or 20 years, and how will your nonprofit meet those needs? Planned gifts provide a safety net and alleviate stress for future staffers and boards so they can focus on the work ahead.
  • Try something fun. Lean into a National Holiday with a planned giving spin. Who doesn’t want to celebrate National Volunteer Month with communication to volunteers, some of your top planned giving prospects?

Reality Check #4: Have board members completed their own planned gifts? Until they do, they can’t talk the talk or fully advocate for planned giving. Remind them of two things: The importance of leadership by example and how easy it can be to make a planned gift.

Way to engage them:
  • Use your one-on-one time. 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? How can an asset-based gift 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.

Reality Check #5: Still have board members who are reluctant to talk about planned giving or make a gift themselves?

Ways to engage them:
  • Ask them if they’re willing to call new legacy donors to thank them. In this step, everyone wins. The donor feels validated and recognized, and the board member begins to feel more comfortable about talking about planned giving.
  • Ask them if they’ll serve on your legacy advisory committee. This is a great way for board members to 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.

60 Minutes to a Better Board

Need a little more insight to get your board’s attention?

Explore the most important ways that a board of directors can (and should) support planned giving with our one-hour webinar. Hosted by Phil Purcell, MPA/JD, Director of Planned Giving, Central Territory, The Salvation Army, “How to Get Your Board ‘On Board’ with Planned Giving,” covers governance, budget, policies, goals and more involvement metrics and techniques.

One webinar attendee said, “I’ve been in this business for 35 years and there is nothing like a good webinar to teach me new ways of approaching the board and donors.”

Watch it today!

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