Face to Face Meetings or NOT

Thinking about planned giving as a career – particularly if you are already a fundraiser?  Here is a question that a colleague and I fleshed out recently that should give you a good idea about a very significant difference between your role as a planned giving fundraiser and that of a major gifts officer.

Does a planned giving director/officer need to be seeing x #’s of people a month like successful major gift fundraisers are expected to?

Well, quite often numbers of donor visits is an expectation that planned giving staff have to live with. That is true but is it needed?  Not necessarily.

In speaking with a friend in the field who had moved over from major gifts – we touched upon the challenge of getting face to face meetings with planned giving donors and prospects.  In fact, based on his prior major gifts background, he stated categorically that the different type of gift transaction (between major gift and planned gift) warranted a different approach.

Here were his observations, which I confirm from my own experiences:

Major gift donors expect, and deserve, in-person meetings for gift asks – it just goes hand in hand with major gift fundraising.  They are most likely responding to a particular organizational need or request – specified in a particular dollar amount – that is best done with an in person meeting, if at all possible.  That is what works and that is what your donors are expecting!

But, planned gifts and/or planned giving donors are quite different. The decision is usually one that takes place in the privacy of their own reflections on life and death (i.e. will drafting, estate planning and/or retirement planning).  Organizational time pressures are almost always never part of the equation unless you have a legacy challenge grant campaign or the planned gift ask is part of a larger campaign ask.

Do we want in-person meetings with planned giving donors? Of course, yes.  But, many of the in-person planned giving experiences come through annual recognition luncheons or seminars.  If your planned giving donor is willing to meet individually, by all means go ahead and get the meeting – even if it’s more like a social call (that is what we call stewardship!).  But, these gifts don’t involve the same type of momentum that a major gift ask involves.  And, your donors are generally happy being invited to a special event or two a year.  And, as prospects get older, visits become more difficult for them and are usually pushed off anyway for various health and other reasons.

This is one of the big nuance differences between major gifts fundraising and planned giving fundraising. Both are fundraising and quite often from the same donors but not on the same timetable or pressures.  And, those meetings with planned giving donors, if you get them, are more often just a friendly check-in.  Important but very different than what major gifts fundraisers are doing.

Next post: If securing planned giving donor/prospect meetings isn’t the top priority, so what should a planned giving director or officer be doing with his or her time?!

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