Anatomy of Success!

Slide1What is success in planned giving? Ultimately, we are looking for more money but you get there with more new commitments from your prospects.

In looking for model institutions to measure a client of mine against, I came upon an institution of higher education/medicine that reported the above numbers to the VSE.

Let’s take a close look at these numbers and then I will explain why this is an incredible story of planned giving success.

We see pretty steady increases in all fundraising, bequests (dark brown) and even a blip year for deferred gifts (light blue).

Yes, we also see that the brown bequest sliver is definitely getting thicker over the years.

What blew me away and inspired me to contact their planned giving director?  Those numbers above each column.  Those are the numbers of new bequest commitments each year.  In other words, in fiscal years 05-07, they averaged 22.3 new bequest donors a year.  Then, between fiscal years 08-09, they averaged 40.5 per year. Between FY10 and FY11, an average of 75 per year. And, then the crème de la crème, FY12 through FY14 an average of over 125 new bequest commitments a year!

Oh, did I mention that the planned giving director started her job at the start of fiscal year 2008.  Before that, a major gifts fundraiser split time on the planned giving program.

Yes, this is a large enough institution to have around 20 full-time fundraisers, with multiple sub-entities which all have their own niches.

But, there is a bigger story here.  Here are the points (and reasons for success along with a lot of hard work!) I pulled out from my conversation with the planned giving director:

  1. A full-time dedicated (and experienced) planned giving director took over the program – this is the common denominator I see when I see success like this.
  2. The planned giving director has dedicated much of her time to winning over and cross training the fundraisers from across this system – every fundraiser now knows when to bring up planned giving and is happy to show off the results and include it in their goals.
  3. The planned giving director sold her bosses on the concept that results will come with time – if the planned giving messaging is consistent and supplemented by the work of all of the fundraisers by integrating it into their donor conversations.
  4. Rather than expend much on “planned giving” only marketing pieces, they opted for messaging post cards (again, not worrying about results) and an extensive bi-weekly email program.  The rest of the marketing happens by adding planned giving stories and pg other content to the various other institutional publications that each sub-division does on their own (with the planned giving staff obviously providing content and assistance).  This is a marketing plan that works, if  you have patience!
  5. Institutional buy-in:  they allowed planned giving to be a significant part of the various development activities going on at a large, complex organization.  Planned giving donors are recognized at various events – even events having nothing to do with planned giving!  The leadership obviously bought into the importance of planned giving and this encouraged the entire enterprise to work at it!

What is really interesting to me is that this organization went completely against the national trends!  As I have blogged recently, planned giving has been in a bit of a lull with the Baby Bust generation (those born in the 1930s) dragging down pg numbers along with a multi-year recession in 09-11.  Not here – their numbers just got stronger and stronger – because they were doing the work, year in and year out!



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