This post comes from the Gravyty Fundraising Academy, a series that examines how fundraisers adapt and strategize to evolve what's possible through philanthropy.
Your guide for the Gravyty Fundraising Academy is Director of Customer Success, Lisa Alvezi. Lisa has worked with countless fundraisers across Higher Education, Health Care, and Nonprofit organizations to transform fundraising. As a former frontline fundraiser herself, her goal is to help you see better results from your fundraising efforts.
5 Ways to Ask a Donor to Consider a Planned Gift
The term planned giving will make most frontline fundraisers immediately think of the challenge in asking a donor to go through the expense of changing their will. However, if you ever tap your planned giving colleagues on the shoulder, you are likely to find a number of different types of estate gifts that your organization can accept.
I am a big fan of planned gifts because donors are often elated and willing to benefit an organization with earnings they no longer need at the end of their lifetime. In fact, many of the largest gifts a nonprofit organization receives come from planned gifts.
But did you know that many planned gifts come from beneficiary designations from life insurance policies, retirement accounts, investment portfolios, and the like? This means that the barrier of changing a will isn't the only way to secure a planned gift – in fact, it can be as simple as filling our a form to change the beneficiary.
So how do you approach planned giving? First consider who you should ask about an estate gift, because you can't start just anywhere. Look for donors who already have multiple-year relationships with your organization. Ideally, you'll seek donors who have been the recipients of personalized stewardship from past gifts from a consistent person or department. Second, the conversation has to start with the donor and what interests them the most, rather than your organization's needs. Here are the five ways to ask a donor to consider a planned gift.
1. "What part of our mission do you feel is the most important and why?"
Say, for instance that your organization is a museum. A donor could have so many possible answers, from bringing in the most fabulous exhibits to maintaining and restoring the permanent collection, programs for children, expanding a collection, guest lecture programs, and more. This gives you a starting point with the donor on how you can work together towards a goal. Here's a phrase to keep in your back pocket:
"You can help us achieve that by considering an estate gift that would go directly to support...."
2. "Looking into the future, what area(s) do you feel will have the highest need for growth or improvement? Why?"
Asking questions about the future is much easier for a donor to focus on than on that person’s ultimate death. A social services donor might want to see services expand for poor families respite care, child care, transportation to/from appointments, or an education program about nutrition.
3. "If money were no object here at the organization, what would you see as our top three priorities? Why?"
You might be surprised by what you hear, or the donor's priorities may fit directly into your organization's strategic initiatives. Fore example, Donors of public broadcast stations could answer with more children’s programming, funding the development of a program on local history, supporting a jazz program featuring local musicians, and more.
4. "What could we do to make your experience better in the future? How and why?"
This valuable feedback is especially pointed when donors have a physical experience with your organization. For example, they could be alumni -- or perhaps former patients (or family members of patients) at a hospital. In these situations, you're likely to hear donors talk about the need for better facilities, a more comfortable family waiting room, or better parking. Donors may also have very specific needs, such as a place for families to rest, shower, and change clothes while they stay with their loved one in the hospital. Once you've heard this feedback, here's a question I like to ask:
"Would you be willing to work with us to make your ideas a reality?"
5. "Tell me three things you feel need growth or improvement from your time here. Why?"
Here's another question that works well with donors who have a physical experience with your organization. This could mean that they have gone through one of your programs, been loyal members, served in some official capacity, or are alumni. Alumni are great at answering these questions. You may hear that they wish there were more available funds for others to experience study abroad programs. I've also heard that a particular faculty member was inspiring, but the alum felt they lacked resources to bring the student experience to life.
Planned giving should not be all about wills. There are so many $500,000 term life insurance policies that cost as little as $12.95 per month. Donors may be willing to take out one of these policies and name your organization as the beneficiary. Think of what your organization could do with a gift of that size.
Remember, focus conversations on a donor's interest in your mission and how they can help fund that through estate giving. Donors who wish to preserve their funds for the unknowns of the future are often the most generous people with estate gifts, and many are surprised at the ways they can help your mission through planning.
If you’d like to learn more about how artificial intelligence can empower your organization to have a culture of philanthropy, personally reach new donors, and inspire giving at scale, click the button below and let's connect.