Deja Vous All Over Again

I had deja vous all all over again in a meeting yesterday.

Older nonprofit, lots of great planned giving potential, but no program to really speak of AND they have this same planned giving guru guiding them for years.

The same consultant, the same result.  A consultant but no program.  This about the 7th time I have had the same revelation.  I’m wondering why these places don’t have a decent planned giving program (ones that rightfully should) and then I find out that they skipped having any planned giving staff for a consultant.

And, trust me, most of these organizations missed the planned giving boat while their peers built major programs.  They are actually very sad stories if you understood the potential they had and the foolish path they chose.

This, of course, is coming from a self-proclaimed guru.  And, trust me, I love it when an organization opts for me over full-time staff.  For me, it is a consistent contract, dependency, etc… But, does it work?

Generally, the answer is no.  An organization can not expect a consultant to build a planned giving program unless that consultant is dedicating at least a full-day or two a week to the job (essentially a part-time planned giving director).  And, even with that type of consultant, the organization better be  putting other staff on it to keep things rolling.

Admittedly, part of this blog post is my frustration that I didn’t get the sweetheart deals that this other consultant got.  Part of it, though, is my own frustrations as a consultant.  When, as a consultant, I have a dedicated staff member at a client implementing a planned giving marketing plan, meeting with donors, creating events, getting newsletters and direct mail out, setting up board presentations, etc…, then I start to see my consulting assistance pay off – for the client, of course!

So, what’s the point of this blog post?  It’s simple.  A planned giving program means consistent dedicated staff plugging away, day after day, at all of the various avenues of promoting planned gifts.  It is not something a consultant, who might be running around the country or dealing with numerous other clients, can do.

Consultants provide expertize, help in avoiding mistakes, long term vision, legal know-how, moving a board in the right direction.  Just not a substitute for staff (excluding those consultants who limits the number clients and really give that day or more a week to clients).

Too many nonprofits fall for the easy way out of just relying on a planned giving consultant to run their “planned giving” program.  They end up doing barely any marketing, mostly just reactive, and think that a planned giving program is this CGA thing they set up (which might actually be in bad shape).  No wonder they are eons away from their direct peers in planned giving.

Consultants like myself can provide step by step plans, project management, expertize in closing unusual gifts, marketing ideas and design, speeches to boards and donors, administration guidance, etc… But, we generally can’t bring the type of overall manpower effort needed to get the full job done.

Let’s put it another.  Any consultant that never transitions a nonprofit into hiring appropriate staff to run a planned giving program can be described simply as  self serving.

Please comment!  Especially the planned giving consultants who are boiling mad at me!


  1. so where’s all the doohickies so I can share this with organizations that need to know this? How do I tweet this or Facebook this? Jonathan, what kind of blog is this where it can’t be shared!!! Phooey!

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