We All Need Each Other—Why Going Solo Doesn’t Work: Planned Giving is Sexier Than You Think!

Whenever I used to hear the words “planned giving”, my eyes would glaze over.  It was like hearing about some foreign country that I never really wanted to visit.  Earlier in my career, when meeting with clients for planning sessions, we’d come up with lots of great strategies and cool ideas, and then someone would say, “Hey, what about planned giving?”

“What about it?”  And then we’d move on to something else.  Oh, how young and naïve I was back then.

Today, when I work with clients and we’re getting into strategies for their major gift donors, I’ll bring up ways to effectively use planned giving as a cultivation strategy,  and sometimes I see that same glazed look in my clients’ eyes that I once had.

Even worse, if the client I’m working with is fortunate enough to have their own planned giving department, most of the major gift officers I know rarely step over there to even say hi, let alone ask for some advice and help.

And, quite frankly, the planned giving officers are none too quick to head over to see what their major gift colleagues are doing either.  I often hear from planned giving officers, “Well, you’d think they (MGO’s) would come over and see what WE have to offer here.”

Sure, if your department wasn’t super scary with big monsters and vampires!  (Which is what every MGO thinks about the planned giving department)

The truth is, major gifts and planned giving need each other in order to be more successful and raise more money.  Yet I really don’t see the type of cooperation that will complement both.  We’ve got to realize that planned giving is not just about wills and estates!

I’m telling you, if you sit down with a really good planned giving officer and ask him or her to explain to you all of the options for a donor today, you will be absolutely blown away! Is your donor worried she can’t make large cash gifts, but she really wants to help?   The answer could be a lead trust.

What’s a lead trust?  Truthfully, I have no idea!  But I do know that it’s an option for one of your donors to do more if he or she doesn’t want to give a ton of cash up front right now.  You don’t have to know all the in’s and out’s IF you have a planned giving officer to help you.  And, they would love to help.

And you, planned giving officer, don’t think the major gift team knows what you have in your bag of tricks.  The major gift team already thinks you’re from Mars, so understand that you have to show concrete examples of how it all works. Bring in some of your donors to explain why they have made a planned gift.  Bringing in a real donor puts a human face on it and I guarantee that, within a few weeks, you’ll have more qualified leads!

One of my favorite planned giving experts is our colleague Anne Nash.  She really helped me understand that what we’re talking about here is putting together strategic gifts.   By doing this you can take time with the donors to figure out what they really want to do in life, what their values are, what is important to them and what kind of legacy they want to leave behind.  Then, you can figure out different instruments to make that happen for them…and for your organization.

Hey, since I know that you’re always looking for new ways to engage with your donors, introducing them to planned giving provides you with that opportunity.

I’m telling you, if you walk across the hall and knock on the door or set foot in the cube of your fellow planned giving colleague, you will be amazed at how you can serve your donor even more.

And to you, planned giving officer, get out of your office and talk to the major gifts team and sell them on the great products you have to offer to their caseload.  Make it simple, fun and engaging and together you’ll do great things for your donors.

Remember, we all need each other…



About Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry

Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry have over 55 years of experience fundraising for non-profits. Richard Perry was co-owner of Domain Group until 2005. Jeff Schreifels was a Senior Strategist for Domain Group for 12 years. They came together a few years ago to start Veritus Group, a full-service major gift fundraising agency. Veritus Group has a unique, data-driven approach unlike any agency focused on major gifts. Jeff and Richard are passionate about their work, passionate about life and hopes this blog will provide you with insights and tangible benefits for you and your work. Thank you for reading!
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8 Responses to We All Need Each Other—Why Going Solo Doesn’t Work: Planned Giving is Sexier Than You Think!

  1. JIm Chitwood says:

    Thanks again for another insightful awesome. You’re darn right planned giving is sexy!

    by the way the artwork with your piece is it copyrighted and if so can you share contact?

    Thanks guys!

  2. Marianne Lynch, CFRE says:

    As an expert in planned giving once reminded me, “most major gifts are planned,” so to promote one in the absence of the other would be a disservice to the donor. In our shop, we are creating a planned giving and major giving program simultaneously. It is not easy, but important for our officer to be somewhat knowledgeable about both options.

  3. Mark Dunlap says:

    I think more and more development offices are combining planned giving and major gifts functions. I don’t like the idea that a donor is solicited by the MGO for a significant time and then the PGO takes over when planned gifts are on the table. I think it is better for the MGO to have those arrows in his/her quiver so there is continuity with the donor relationship.

  4. Natalia says:

    What if I’m the ONLY development person in my small non-profit? I guess I should just keep reading your blog to learn more, eh? 😉

    • haha! Yes! Keep reading Natalia!! But, there is this little great thing called SEARCH, that you can go back and look at almost any topic with major gifts and my guess is that we’ve covered a lot of it. But, if you are the ONLY one, just know you will need to have an understanding of how planned giving works, how your organization can do it and then start implementing some small steps to have it as an option for your donors. I know it seems scary. Believe me it was to me, but once you get into it a bit, you realize what a great resource it is for you to present to your donors. There is all kinds of help out there for small shops. A colleague of mine, Pam Grow (just google her) has a lot of resources for the one-stop shop. I would check her out.


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