Understanding PG Donor from Brain Images

Can we really find ways to attract more responses to our planned giving promotional efforts?

I just gave a webinar last week on Professor Russell James’ brain research findings (click through this link to get access to Professor James’ own presentation of his research and findings) and the enormity of his findings and conclusions as they relate to Planned Giving programs are still in my head!

Consider this true story very carefully: I put together a beautiful post card (with built in prepaid postage return card) to 7,000 long-term direct mail donors for a client of mine last spring.  Everything seemed right about it.  The picture on the front linked their historic/nostalgic mission with the passing on of the tradition to future generations, and it had very simple language asking recipients to just tear off the reply card, check if you had already done something or had interest, and fold/drop in mail box. How many responses?  Sadly, only 3 cards came back – all for deceased donors whose family wanted off our mailing list.

Just this past January, we sent to 4,000 out of the same 7,000 donor group a survey that requested their help with how we communicate the mission, etc…  Slipped into the questionnaire – around the 6th or 7th question – was a question about giving through wills, trusts and other testamentary gifts.  Our results?  Hundreds of those same people not only took our survey, but 40% of those who took it had some level of interest in making such a gift.  I actually have around 100 planned giving prospects to follow-up with (those who said they had done something or were interested!).

The question from this true story you should be asking yourself is simple: what was the difference maker between the two approaches? The SAME group of donors.  One failed miserably.  One succeeded way beyond our expectations.

Incredibly, the answer lies in Professor James’ research!

Interested?  Click that link above to check out Professor James’ talk or CLICK HERE if you want to purchase (for $37.50) the ability to view my Planned Giving Club webinar presentation last week on my conclusions and practical applications that I presented to my clients and Planned Giving Club members.  As much as I like giving information for free (i.e. see my hundreds of blog posts), this session was created for those who already pay for my services so it wouldn’t be fair to paying customers to just give it out!

So ask yourself this – do you send planned giving pieces to thousands of people with little or no response?  Do you have similar issues in other areas of planned giving promotions (i.e. blank stares from board members and other seemingly good planned giving prospects when the topic comes up)?

Again, if my webinar (which was called “Understanding the Planned Giving Donor from Brain Images?”) interests you, CLICK HERE, pay through PayPal, and we’ll send you the link to watch the 1 hr session.

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Donor Advised Funds a sham?

At the recent AFP International Conference, I met a fellow consultant, Alan Cantor, who was debating on whole Donor Advised Fund (DAF) “sham.”  His main point was that DAFs were effectively taking contribution dollars out of the hands of nonprofits (that address real needs) and into the hands of Wall Street (who prefer DAF funds to sit investing and collecting fees). He made an excellent argument for requiring DAFs to require distributions!  See his very well written piece in the Chronicle of Philanthropy:  https://philanthropy.com/article/Donor-Advised-Funds-Let-Wall/152337 on this very issue.

Do I agree with Alan Cantor on this issue?  Absolutely!

But, planned giving is about offering donors options that meet their needs (financial or otherwise) and DAFs fill a need for donors to obtain an upfront income tax deduction for funds that will be granted out to worthy causes (within a reasonable time period, we hope!).  So, I am pro DAFs – in general.

But, an op-ed (click to see) in a little known, topic specific online publication reminded me of the sham that DAFs tend to be.  I will sum up the op-ed story.  The Jewish Communal Fund (JCF) – one of the largest and most successful DAF charities in the country not connected to a financial firm (that puts them in better company than most) – has made grants of hundreds of thousands of dollars to a charity by the name of the New Israel Fund (NIF).  Sounds like the mission should be closely related to the JCF – which is United Jewish Appeal (UJA) of New York’s donor advised fund spinoff (and whose board is technically controlled by UJA) – not that JCF pushes any particular mission on any donor.  Here is a quote from the op-ed from the CEO of JCF regarding their policy of making grants to other organizations:

As a sponsoring organization of donor advised funds, the Jewish Communal Fund’s sole mission is to facilitate and administer charitable giving on behalf of our donors. Our diverse network of donors support a wide range of charities and our facilitation of these gifts does not constitute an endorsement of any organization or political viewpoint.”

Sounds like a good policy, which has worked well to make JCF a billion dollar behemoth.

What’s the op-ed really about and the global issue it raises for DAF charities?  It turns out that NIF is considered by many to be an anti-Israel organization (incredible as that sounds) – one that supports economic boycotts of Israel as well as somehow harming Israel’s defense forces. Not sure how they do that but one thing is for sure – it seems as though NIF’s activities and mission MAY actually contradict UJA’s (and therefore JCF’s) mission (which first and foremost is the support of the establishment and continuation of the State of Israel).

I am not writing about UJA’s mission vs. NIF – that is not the point of this post.

My issue is that DAF charities are not meant to be pass-throughs without some connection to the mission of the DAF charity.  A pure pass-through, which JCF is claiming is their “sole mission” runs completely counter to what a DAF is supposed to be under the law.  Same thing applies for so called “American Friends of” organizations.  Not pass-throughs – rather they are supposed to be organizations with an actual nonprofit mission.

In other words, the above quote from JCF’s CEO, which was quoted in the linked Op-Ed, is spilling the beans on what has really become standard for many DAFs.  They are really nothing more than investment accounts in which the funds someday should go to a qualified 501(c)(3). Is that a charitable mission that warrants public charity/tax-exempt status?  I don’t think so.

Of course, if a charity with a DAF program was to use their DAF program as an opportunity to offer charitable funding options and ideas – within the charity’s stated mission – that would be in line with what a DAF is supposed to be.  You can’t have it both ways. Either you are a charity with a mission or you are a financial firm.  Whether you are Fidelity Gift Fund or JCF, your nonprofit is supposed to have a charitable mission that applies to  your actual DAF funds.  Without applying that mission, you are not a qualified charity!

In any case, you could turn down a grant request every now and then!