3 Simple Ways to Surge a Planned Giving Program

Hands framing a clear image of a sunset

This guest post by Tycely Williams, CFRE, first appeared in Philanthropy Front and Center Washington DCThis is Part 2 of a three-part blog series on planned giving. Read Part 1.

Something isn’t working with your planned giving program. You heavily invested in reputable software, recruited talented staff, and yet, the golden goose has yet to lay one single golden egg.

The crux of the challenge isn’t the goose; it’s something bigger. Turn your attention from the longneck waterfowl to the development and successful implementation of a thoughtful strategy. These three tips will help you clearly define with whom to play and how to win.

Define Donors of Interest

The first step in strategy development is to identify the target. Of course, you’re looking for benevolent and generous people, but you must narrow your focus.  Traditionally, age has been the most common factor for segmentation, but times are changing. Organizations such as the Guggenheim Museum are strategically cultivating younger donors. Annually, the museum hosts the Young Collectors Party coupled with an exclusive dinner for young donors who are generously giving at a high level.

Other considerations not affiliated with age are past giving history, financial capacity and organizational involvement. When evaluating past giving history, look for consistent annual contributions. Prioritize donors based upon their demonstrated length of giving. This approach will naturally boost the visibility of donors within a certain age range. Don’t forget about the younger donors who’ve lived fewer years. Pay attention to the regularity of their individual giving because it signifies an affinity to your mission.

Classify targets of interest by setting a tangible metric for financial capacity. Adopt a schedule to review, rate and rank prospects based upon your standard. In addition, identify criteria for organizational involvement. Will you target board members and other key volunteers? Don’t overlook the staff prospect pool — at what employment level and for how many years of service will you promote planned giving?

The last recommended factor is family condition. You must determine if your target is single, married, widowed, etc. Be sure to dig deep and expound. Does your donor of interest have children or grandchildren? Intently define the most suitable familial circumstances.  

State Your Value Proposition

The second step in strategy development is to state your value proposition. “A value proposition is a positioning statement that explains the benefit you provide and how you do it uniquely well,” declares Michael Skok, a contributor for Forbes. According to Skok, you are on track to develop a competitive value proposition if you are solving an unworkable problem, fixing an unavoidable problem, addressing an urgent problem, or if there are conspicuous absences of solutions to the problem you are seeking to solve.

What giving opportunity of a lifetime is your organization offering? Sharpen your innovation and differentiate how a planned gift to your organization accomplishes an unthinkable advantage for the donor. The donor is what matters most, not your mission. Accentuate how the gift can protect the values, social interests, and financial needs of the donor.

Deliver on Your Promise

The third step in strategy development is to secure the human and capital resources needed to carry out the plan. If you desire golden eggs, be certain you have a golden goose. To successfully administer an effective planned giving program, you need a scientist and an artist. Often, the person who can skillfully devise a planned giving program is not the same person who can delicately build the relationships. Ensure you have the right people at the right time for the right reasons.

The primary reason is simple: You have a promise to deliver. Your organization will need human and capital resources to meet the conditions of the planned gift inside and outside the development office. And, as for my promise to you: Invest in your planned giving strategy, and soon golden eggs will appear.

Tycely Williams, CFRE

TYCELY WILLIAMS, CFRE is a Regional Chief Development Officer at the American Red Cross. Tycely will present a special three-hour session, "Creating a Planned Giving Program", on June 12 at Foundation Center Washington DC. Click here for more details and to register.