planned giving

It’s started…..

Tax reform – yikes! Always supposed to simplify but always ends up being more complicated!

If you are a nonprofit/fundraiser, you should be concerned. Presidential proposals in the past have been very frightening to nonprofits who rely mainly on tax deductible gifts. So, what are we facing?

  1. Firstly, we are a long way from anything actually happening but we do have some details on the Administration’s’ proposed plans.
  2. Good news – It’s official – the income tax deduction isn’t being tampered with.
  3. Not sure news – the standard deduction would jump a lot (ie… 2016 for married joint return is $12,600 – would jump to $24,000). In other words, many more people will no longer “itemize” on their tax returns – maybe this deincentivizes those from giving because their gifts no longer get them a cash rebate?  More on this below.
  4. Also not sure news – no more death tax.  Ha ha. Last time a president fulfilled his promise to eliminate the estate tax (2001), he actually increased it in many places and it almost swung back to huge rates in 2011. In any case, the roller coaster years of ending estate tax to the snap back year to a decent fix actually didn’t impact planned giving numbers! I don’t think there will be an impact on bequest dollars to charities but I do think I may be very busy dealing with whatever cockamanie scheme they come up with (ie…return of carry-over basis 🙂

Back to #3 – I already saw a Forbes article claiming that the increase in the standard deduction “could decimate charitable giving.” Click here for that article but please read my response!

I totally disagree with that article’s point.

Here is another quote from the article:

The House tax reform blueprint said that a $24,000 standard deduction for joint filers would reduce the percentage of American taxpayers who itemize and take the charitable deduction from 25% (one out of four taxpayers) to 5% (one out of 20).”

Sounds catastrophic except for the fact that most charities receive 80% or more of their fundraising dollars from the top 20% echelon of their donors – and those 20% will likely continue to itemize.  Trust me, your major gift donors have more than $24,000 in itemized deductions! I have way more than that!!! (and I’m not anywhere near being a major gift donor – nowhere near it in fact;(

Anyway, take a look at these charts from my training programs:

One Day Boot Camp - AM Session 1 Introduction and OverviewOne Day Boot Camp - AM Session 1 Introduction and Overview 2

Americans give consistently – regardless.  2% of disposable personal – 2% of the economy.  The dips happen when people are poorer – not upset about taxes.  SO, the administration argument that people doing better in general is better for nonprofit fundraising is TRUE!!!!  Put more money in their pockets and they will give more.  This next slide on total US giving – inflation adjusted since 1975 – makes that point especially in light of the above slides. Giving over those years just went up and up but the percentages of disposable wealth and GDP stayed flat!!

One Day Boot Camp - AM Session 1 Introduction and Overview 3

Ok, so how could charities get hurt by the increase of the standard deduction? Well, older people might be impacted who don’t have all of the deductions that younger folks have.  They may start getting less benefit from their charitable giving – that is true.

Ah, older meaning age 70.5 and up – just happens that at that age, you are eligible to make direct IRA rollover gifts – no taxes.  This is already a great deal for seniors who don’t itemize and if this change happens, you need to step up the IRA rollover marketing!

Maybe we can convince the government to allow direct rollover IRA giving from age 59.5!! That would be really cool.

We’ve just begun with the big tax changes. Stay tuned!

Watch Free Webinar on the Great Wealth Transfer


Check out this free webinar on the Great Wealth Transfer!  (NOTE: the first minute or two didn’t get recorded but it picks up on the first slide)

If you have any interest in receiving a copy of the actual powerpoint (with slide data accessible) please email me at

Also, don’t forget to check out our summer planned giving training programs!

The Planned Giving Boot Camp (starts July 12th)

Beyond the Planned Giving Boot Camp (part II of the Boot Camp) (starts July 20th)

Thank you as always for checking out our programs!






Man’s Search for Meaning and Philanthropy

I’ve been thinking for several weeks about this book and what it has to do with philanthropy in general and planned giving in particular.  Something just struck me so please humor me and read on.

Firstly, if you’ve never read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, you need to.  It is an unbelievable, true story with a far reaching message – one for those who work in philanthropy in particular need to ponder.  The story is of Frankl’s first hand experiences as an inmate in a concentration camp but Frankl is no ordinary victim. He was an up and coming Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist when he was swept into the Holocaust.  His life’s work having to do with a theory that people  have an inherent need to seek meaning in life.  And, he observed first hand – under the most horrific conditions – the impact of one’s being able to maintain meaning as a source of drive to remain alive (and the loss of meaning and almost assured death).

Frankl eventually becomes his own prime case study when he himself loses his research papers – the papers that gave him meaning and drive to live, and how he somehow finds meaning to live.  Eventually, he does survive and his theory changed the face of psychiatry and the world.

So what does Frankl’s story and work have to do with philanthropy or planned giving?

Think about this field we are in – philanthropy, fundraising. We represent various non-profit institutions and/or programs that receive significant funding through gifts from individuals.  Someone sees a request (perhaps in a letter or email or personal meeting), considers the worthiness of the cause, weighs how much to give this particular cause at this time, and writes a check or gives cash or something else of value. And, when it comes to planned giving, that same person is deciding to leave something after they are gone for this cause.

Why should anyone do this? What is the core reason for philanthropy?

I would like to suggest that Frankl’s theory is at the heart of the matter. Deep down in a person’s head, perhaps in the subconscious, there is something that drives a person to seek meaning outside of themselves and it often finds expression through charitable giving.  Giving to help others and/or to a cause greater than oneself. It gives meaning to our own lives.

So what does this mean to us “professionals” in the business of raising money?

Let me suggest that our job is to offer – on behalf of our respective institutions – meaning to the lives of our supporters.  In other words, we need to communicate clearly what our institutions are doing for our community and the rest of mankind.  We need to show our supporters that their dollars play an important role – that they are partners with us (the institutions) in addressing whatever needs we are focusing on.  That the funds are well spent and that the institution is making a difference.  And, that our current, short-term and long-term goals are in line with what we have promised to accomplish – on your (our supporters’) behalf.

In other words, let’s find a way to treat every donor – not just the top ones – like shareholders in the enterprise of correcting the world or whatever corner of the world we happen to be focussing on.

And, if we do that job well, besides receiving larger and more consistent gifts, more supporters will make the ultimate gift in their estate plans – establishing their own life legacies by connecting to institutions and causes  after they will no longer be here.

The gifts during life are small down payments on various levels of meaning our donors seek through their generosity.  And, the gifts upon death are often the final balloon payments to the most important, impactful conduits of meaning during our lives.














Careers in Planned Giving – Part 3 – The Partial Planned Giving Officer

Image result for nbcuni-international

We left off last week on the generally understood phenomenon that full-time planned giving officer positions are not widespread.  My hunch is that this will change, especially as baby-boomers move into planned giving territory (for another post).  But, for now, if you are interested in planned giving (career-wise), you are probably best advised to work in fundraising and pick up some planned giving responsibilities.

This works in a few common scenarios.

Director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving – This a common position that seeks a major gifts fundraiser who will also cover planned giving. I choose my words carefully.  Most of these positions are primarily major gifts. The problem with these scenarios is that the major gifts piece usually consumes the fundraiser – leaving little or no time for much planned giving to happen.

In fact, these scenarios are usually recipes for planned giving mediocracy since the person who is supposed to implement the planned giving program is only judged on their major gift success.  So, for organizational leaders reading this post, think carefully before throwing planned giving into your major gift director’s lists of responsibilities.  If you have potential in planned giving, you may be severely hampering your organization in this area.

What you can you do as a major gifts fundraiser (you better be one or else you may not have a job for long) who has planned giving in your title and responsibilities to succeed on the planned giving front?

  1. Learn how to integrate planned giving into your major gift asks!  Make it part of the equation for most donors. Get used to using  your “legacy opener” with as many donors as possible (you’ll have to take our planned giving boot camp to find out more about that!) This may take some practice but it works.
  2. Learn to use outside vendors to get planned giving pieces out!  This may cost a few extra dollars but may save a ton of time and if done well, could bring in so many planned giving prospects that someone on staff may need to become full time in planned giving!
  3. Learn how to quantify all planned giving commitments. The majority of planned gifts are simple bequests -with no dollar figure until the donor passes.  Change that paradigm.  Create incentives for donors to reveal approximately what they plan – maybe matching gift campaigns or inclusion in a capital campaign.  Or, come up with an average bequest size.  If that is too difficult, use $50,000 as an average bequest size.

Director of other areas of fundraising (like annual fund or general fundraisers) that have planned giving as an extra responsibility.  This is even further removed from actually being required to do any planned giving since it isn’t even in your title.

You can always implement the three above suggestions and try to find ways to get the organization to at least add it to your job title. The key is to show results and potential.

In other words, money – get their attention with large planned gifts!  It works almost every time.

In the meantime, you can take training courses (like my boot camp!), join your local planned giving council, and also train yourself in personal financial planning!

When the time comes, if you have any planned giving donor experiences to share or other planned giving successes, you will be ready for a planned giving only job (pg director or pg officer). You don’t need certifications or fancy titles – just experience with donors and planned gifts.

Anyway, I am telling you right now – the nonprofit world is waking up to the need to staff-up in planned giving.  Get yourself some hands-on experience while working the annual fund or various other levels of donors and you will be good to go.

Next post: The Planned Giving Tidal Wave – How soon?