The Struggle for Relevance


Let’s face it: fundraising departments are under tremendous pressure, sometime to raise ridiculous sums of money in ridiculously short time frames.  In other words, the heads of development who are under unreasonable demands need to be laser focused on the bottom line.

What does this mean for planned giving?

Well, this is underlying story  of planned giving that I experience as well as colleagues. Sure, planned giving is important to most heads of development, in theory.  But, if our planned giving efforts are not impacting today’s numbers, attention (i.e. time and budget) will turn elsewhere.  And, without time and/or budget, our chances at success are very limited.

This is actually why a fulltime planned giving position is actually a very tricky position to succeed at.  If fundraising departments gave us a pro-rata share of budget, intros to top prospects, and so on, it would be easy!  But, we are usually stuck in the corner, with little or no budget, and less and less access to the prospects who can make transformational planned gifts.  Yes, when they need us, we are ready to help close a planned gift that the donors ask for.  But, there are just not enough of those to sustain interest.

And, to be honest, as a consultant, I am under even more pressure to deliver results quickly.  If you follow my webinars and blog posts, you might recall that I was once given 4 months to get results or say good-bye to my largest client.  Yes, 4 months.  And, all of our prior mailings, emails, and other efforts had not really worked. And, they were not allowing me to contact the board members or other likely prospects.

So, what did I do? I gave the executive director a list of things I could work on in what looked like my last 4 months on this client.  My best advice was to go for the “results” oriented survey program from Market Smart.  To his credit (the exec wasn’t one who was putting me under the gun, it was the chairman of the board), he decided to take the chance, spend a little money, and take our best shot at some results.

What happened? We got results! 70 new members of the legacy society. Over 400 planned giving prospects. Proof that the organization needed a full time planned giving director. (And, two more years of my work with this organization!)

Now maybe you understand why I am so fixated on survey programs. They get results.  I am also fixated on planned giving matching gift campaigns – they also get results!  This is a cash match is used to encourage revealing of planned gifts – with varying ways to release funds.

There aren’t the only ideas out there for getting planned giving results but I can’t think of any others that get such quick turnaround (particularly the survey campaign which saw huge numbers for me within 4 months of being on the brink).

Want to learn more about these ROI ideas that work?

I just gave a webinar last week on survey campaigns!  Click here to see a description of it and register if you would like the view the recording (I will see the registration and email the recording link).

Or, tomorrow I am giving a webinar on Planned Giving Matching Gift Campaigns – Click here to register! (all registrants receive the recording link in case anyone misses the live session).


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