To Sue or Not, That is the Question

duke law suite picture

Click the picture (or here for a PDF of the article Duke University Makes Claim on Estate of Aubrey McClendon – WSJ) and check out an article about how Duke University filed a claim against the estate of the late Aubrey McClendon for close to $10 million in unfulfilled pledges.

We have no doubt that the pledges were legally binding.

What we should be doubting is whether this was the right move by Duke or not.  $10 million is a decent amount of money, even for Duke and its $6+ billion dollar endowment.

But here are a few questions I would have hoped Duke considered before embarking down this road:

  • What is the likelihood that this story will end up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal – embarrassing the university and possibly sending a chill towards major donors making legally binding commitments (by the way, someone from Princeton told me that their policy is make all pledges NON-legally binding)?
  • What is the likelihood Duke will receive their share considering Mr. McClendon may not have any wealth left by the time they get to unsecured creditors like Duke?
  • What if it turns out that Duke will be taking funds while McClendon’s widow and/or kids receive nothing due to the state of his finances?

I am a huge fan of using legally binding pledge commitments when appropriate and even filing claims to collect on them – when appropriate.

But here, I wonder if this was the right move.  I know they had to file a claim before the deadline – and only afterwards will they know the answer as to whether there is enough to go around.  Still, the first negative bullet point already came to fruition today.

Nicest Planned Giving Website Award!

There are plenty of really nice planned giving websites out there and plenty of not so nice ones. Every time I go call someone in the industry, I go to their website, see how fast I can find them, check out if their site is up to date, how it looks, etc…


So, today’s call to a former colleague wins the award for possibly the nicest planned giving website that I recall seeing (City of Hope is a close second).  Note: neither Hadassah’s or City of Hope’s sites are standard canned ones.  Hadassah’s was written and designed by their Planned Giving staff with some extras from Stelter and City of Hope had help from a consultant and Market Smart.

Take a look around Hadassah’s planned giving pages by clicking on the picture or the url below it – to me, this is how your planned giving pages should look and feel.  It is not canned at all (or least any 3rd party material is secondary), it has great pictures and donors stories and quotes, and it directs you on what to do and who to contact throughout!

Next challenge: how do you get people to your beautiful planned giving website and convert them into prospects?!

Legacy Challenges – Next Way to Transform Your Planned Giving Program


columbia legacy challenge

Yesterday, we did a webinar on Survey Campaigns – one of the newer big ideas to transform your planned giving efforts. I think everyone was blown away at the results we showed.  (click here if you want to purchase the recording for that webinar for $70)

Next week, on Wednesday August 10th, we are offering another webinar on another way to transform your planned giving programs – on LEGACY CHALLENGES/PLANNED GIVING MATCHING GIFT CAMPAIGNS – click to learn more!

Ok, what is so special about these campaigns? 1. Draws new planned giving donors out into the open. 2. Often quantified and confirmed! 3. You get the match money, too! 4. You open the eyes of your leadership. 5. You open the eyes of your major gifts team.  That is just the start of the discussion.

The results alone from a few successful legacy challenge campaigns that we’ll go through in the webinar next week will blow you away.

Interested? Click here to learn more and/or register!

Back talking surveys…

I know I might start sounding like a broken record but I can’t ignore the only marketing method that I have come across in my 20+ year planned giving career that not only gets results – but gets massive results.

As I am preparing for a new webinar next week (Wednesday, August 3, 2016!) on this topic for our Beyond the Planned Giving Boot Camp program, I started looking over the results for about 15 organizations and I am just stunned.  50-200 new planned giving donors revealed? 1,000 to 3,000+ qualified leads for potential planned gifts?  This are some of the ranges of responses I am seeing.  Some big organizations, some small. Some just email, some just hard copy surveys sent.

More to come on this topic.  In the meantime, if anyone from your team wants to sit in on this particular session, I have decided to open it up for single session registration (as opposed to forcing you to take the whole course!).  If you have any interest, click here to see more or register!