By DonorSearch

[Guest Post] Cast a Wider Net in Your Prospect Identification

This blog focuses on the world of prospect research and various related fundraising topics. To diversify our subject matter, we like to feature the work of our friends and colleagues in the community. Join me in welcoming Jeff Stein and Allison Keech Sanka of Planned Giving Marketing and please enjoy their post on planned giving.

Cast a Wider Net in Your Prospect Identification

There are more big fish in your small pond than you may think (or than you’ve been led to believe).

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By DonorSearch

5 Big Benefits of Fundraising with Wealth Screening

This post was written by Jeri Alcock CFRE, West Coast Sales Manager at DonorSearch. If you could accurately predict the future you’d be a very successful person. You’d spend your days trading stocks at the exact right moment and catching kittens just as they fall from trees. You could be a crime-preventing, disaster-avoiding, money maker. Such seemingly far-fetched dreams. We might not have found a way to predict the world’s future, but we have uncovered a way for fundraisers to predict donors’ futures — prospect research. Prospect research is talked about a lot on this blog, which is quite reasonable given that it is DonorSearch’s specialty. When performing a prospect screening, you’re taking a holistic approach to donor analysis. You want the big picture of a prospect’s giving future, so you look at a combination of worthwhile factors. Take a dash of past giving, a teaspoon of nonprofit involvement, a pinch of real estate ownership, some secret ingredients, and mix it all together to whip up a batch of predictive donor profiles. In thinking about the ingredients that go into creating a prospect profile, we can typically see the various data types dividing into either wealth markers or philanthropic indicators. With wealth screening, nonprofits are looking at wealth markers in particular. Wealth screening is about giving capacity rather than willingness to give. A screening of this sort will answer one key question: How much can this prospect afford to give? Now, you’ll need to look at philanthropic indicators to see if that prospect will actually make the moves to donate, but wealth screening tells nonprofits what their prospects are capable of

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By DonorSearch

2 Questions About Planned Giving and Ethics

I know what you might be wondering…is this going to be a wordy, complex discussion of a very legal-heavy topic? The answer is no! We will be covering that topic that has yet to be named, but this post aims to explain some of those complexities in a manner that is digestible for a layman. There are academic papers for the intricacies of planned giving ethics. This post is for people who are newly and/or casually involved with planned giving and need an introduction to ethical questions associated with such programs. Remember, simply because we’re discussing ethics, that does not mean that ethical ambiguity is some gray storm cloud hanging over planned giving. You’ll rarely have any ethical questions when running your program. It is just good to be aware of what you could encounter, even if it remains entirely hypothetical in your situation. Before moving on to the two questions that will be guiding this discussion, let’s define terms.

Definition of Planned Giving

Planned giving can be defined as the act of allocating funds and/or assets to be donations at a later date — most often at death. Commonly granted through wills or trusts, planned gifts can be strictly cash, property, life insurance policies, and much more. Read additional details about planned giving’s definition here!

Definition of Ethics

This definition could quickly devolve into a close reading of an immense term, so we’re going to defer to our good friend, Merriam-Webster, this time.
— rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad — an area of study that deals with ideas about what is good and bad behavior; a branch of philosophy dealing with what is morally right or wrong — a belief that something is very important
For our purposes, we’ll be zeroing in on that first point. Hypothetically, if you were to encounter an ethical dilemma when acquiring a planned gift, you are likely to instinctively be able to recognize that something is off. Don’t dismiss your gut feeling. Respectfully pursue what you’re questioning and handle the situation accordingly, depending on what you uncover. There’s legal, illegal, and questionable. Questionable counts for something. Don’t ignore it. Much of what makes charity so enticing is that it feels good. It is nice to know that your actions are helping the world in some way. Whether you collect recyclables during a can drive or buy a table at a fundraising dinner, your work is making a difference. Good deeds are good all around. Planned gifts don’t deserve to be muddled by moral ambiguity. Ready to start the questions?

#1: Are there any ethical issues surrounding the planned giving tax breaks?

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By DonorSearch

15 Planned Giving Best Practices

As you venture into the world of planned giving, there’s a lot to consider. Defining what your program will look like starts with your launch. During the early phases of your program and the ongoing process of running it, you’ll be looking for ways to optimize your efforts. Look no further than this page.

Let these 15 planned giving best practices lead the way.

#1: Build a Strong Team

Like with any fundraising program, you’ll need a strong team. If your organization can afford to do so, it is recommended that you hire a planned gifts officer. Even if you cannot hire someone solely for the role, at least have a member of your development staff take the lead. In the early stages in particular, you’ll need one person to guide your efforts, and a complete team to make those planned giving dreams a reality.

#2: Form an Advisory Committee

An advisory committee, like your in-house team will be working to make the most of your program. The committee should be composed of people with outside knowledge that would be particularly helpful with a planned giving program. Organizations running planned giving programs have to be able to handle the financial and legal questions and implications associated with the gifts. Put together an advisory committee with lawyers, financial planners, realtors, and other people who would bring much needed expertise.

#3: Brand Your Program

Branding your program is good for the donors and good for your organization. The donors get added perks that come with exclusive giving clubs. And, your organization has an incentive for supporters to make their planned giving plans known. When your nonprofit knows about those donors, your staff can better correspond with and assist them. Offer special communications and opportunities for members and name the program. The term legacy is commonly used in conjunction with these programs, like the Legacy Giving Club, for example. Planned giving needs to be presented as the premiere donation option that it is.

#4: Learn How to Identify Prospects

Your program will be much more effective, much sooner if your team goes out of its way to solicit planned gifts from top candidates. Just like you would approach certain supporters for major giving over others, you can do the same for planned giving. Planned giving donors are identifiable by a collection of traits. The two most important of which are loyalty and age. Head over to our identifying prospects article to learn about the many factors that go into determining a prospect’s likelihood of leaving a planned gift.

#5: Include Age in Your Donor Database

Although by definition, planned giving is simply making an arrangement for a future gift in the present, planned gifts are usually allocated after the death of the donor, per that donor’s wishes as detailed in a will or trust. With that in mind, most younger donors are not thinking about their wills or their legacies. Donors who are setting up their wills will be the most receptive to any planned giving promotions.

#6: Go to Your Board for Early Involvement

Donors will want to participate in a thriving program. They’ll be far less interested in being the first members of your planned giving club. To get the program growing and thriving, go to your board members first. Your board members will likely have many of the identifiable traits of planned giving prospects. Plus, as a part of your organization, they’ll better understand the program. While your team is still solidifying its planned giving strategy and finessing the best approach, beginning with board members is a way to ease into the process.

#7: Begin with Bequests

Planned giving can get complicated when you start to delve into the various forms of donating, like charitable remainder trusts and charitable gift annuities. Soften your entrance into the world by starting with the simplest form of planned giving, bequests. Bequests are straightforward gifts left in wills. Once you’ve mastered the art of handling bequests, from marketing for them to receiving them, move on to more complex types of gift. Especially if you’re a smaller nonprofit on a tighter budget, bequests are the best point of planned giving entry.

#8: Communicate Consistently

Find ways to work planned giving into the conversation. If this is a new fundraising method for your organization, it is also likely relatively unknown to your donor population. Help get them up to speed with consistent communication about the topic and your program. Once a donor has announced his or her planned giving intentions and joined your branded club, that donor should continue to receive communications. Those communications will just be of a different nature. Planned giving donors should receive less educational content and more acknowledgement and update-based communications.

#9: Incorporate Planned Giving Into Pre-existing Promotions

Developing marketing materials for your new planned giving program from scratch can feel daunting. Start by incorporating planned giving promotions into your pre-existing marketing materials. You’ll still have to build out the copy that you’re going to use, but you surely already have communications outlets that you can insert planned giving into. For instance, include a blurb about planned giving in your email newsletters and add planned giving to the “ways to give” page on your website. With those in place, you’ll want to develop planned giving-specific materials, like a brochure and an informational page on your website.

#10: Find Quirky Ways to Market

If you want your program to stand out, you’ll need to find inventive, and sometimes quirky, ways to promote the planned giving options. This best practice can mean a variety of things. You could try adding a “did you know” box at the bottom of a direct mail letter. Or, you could add verbiage about planned giving in your staff’s email signatures. This all comes down to finding creative ways to diversify how your network is discovering planned giving.

#11: Offer Educational Opportunities

If it takes research and training to get your staff prepared to run a planned giving program, your supporters are going to need similar educational opportunities as well

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By DonorSearch

How do you Start a Planned Giving Program?

Building anything from the ground up takes serious effort and endurance. There is no way to snap your fingers and make things happen. You need the proper tools, materials, and know-how to take an idea from the abstract to reality. This is true of real life construction, and it is true of program development. Your planned giving program will be beneficial. It can be a huge success. You just need to begin with the right building plan.

The five steps below will help guide you through your planned giving program’s start.

Start strong and stay strong.


They tell you that you need to walk before you run. Those same people caution you to look before you leap. What do these expressions have to do with planned giving? They apply to how you should approach starting your planned giving program. If your organization is looking to succeed with planned giving (which it should of course be doing), it needs to prepare for the launch with research and dedication to fully understanding the topic. How your nonprofit goes about making itself acquainted with prospect research will vary depending on how you see your program playing out. Ask yourself and your team:
  • What do we already know about planned giving?
  • What kind of planned gifts are we going to be after?
  • How much is in our budget for this program?
  • Can we bring on a planned gifts officer?
  • Will the board approve of all of these decisions?
  • What policies do we need to put in place to handle any influx of planned gifts?

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By DonorSearch

What are the Planned Giving Benefits?

What direction are you steering your nonprofit? Successful nonprofits adjust based on the past, actively work in the present, and strategize for the future. All in a day’s work. Clearly, those three components are much easier to talk about than to execute. If your organization wants to do more than talk, it has to steer its efforts towards programs that account for all three of those past, present, and future efforts. Launching a planned giving program is one such direction your nonprofit can take. A planned gift is a gift that is decided on in the present and given in the future. Supporters who donate planned gifts often allocate them in wills or trusts. Organizations running planned giving programs seek out past donors, make arrangements in the present, and receive the donations in the future. They promote a cycle of giving. And the giving cycle is fruitful for all involved.

Planned Giving Benefits for Nonprofits

Even if you feel that starting a planned giving program is intimidating, it will be worth the work. Let me use these three benefits to explain why.

Benefit #1: Forces a Future Focus

A planned gift is a future gift. A donor will not consider donating a planned gift if your nonprofit does not have a long and healthy future ahead of itself. Even just thinking about implementing a planned giving program puts nonprofits in a position where they need to step up and figure out their futures. Taking stock of your organization’s current growth direction should always be welcome. It takes great effort and strategic use of resources to run a successful nonprofit. Sometimes it is easy to get lost in the present. Nonprofits are juggling so many things at once that forecasting what is to come does not always attract much attention. Launching a planned giving program will give your organization no choice. Your fundraisers that will be soliciting planned gifts have to be able to answer questions about the future of the organization if supporters ask them.

Benefit #2: Planned Gifts are Often Some of the Largest Gifts a Nonprofit Will Receive all Year

Who does not love a major gift? One major gift can change the entire course of a nonprofit’s service initiative. They are highly sought after for a reason. The only downside to major gifts is that they are scarce. We all know a variation on the famous statistic, 90% of a nonprofit’s funds come from 10% of its donors. That statistic tells us two key trends:
  • Major gifts can make or break a nonprofit’s fundraising.
  • Nonprofits would see considerable increases in their funding if they could just find more major gifts donors
Want to know a not-so-secret secret? Planned gifts can match major gifts in size, and they are more universally accessible. Donors who allocate planned gifts do not have to be wealthy. Seeking planned gifts opens your nonprofit up to new large donation possibilities.

Benefit #3: Loyal Donors Can Contribute More Than They Could Have in Their Lifetimes

Planned giving benefit #3 is related to something mentioned in the above point. Wealth is not a limiting factor for planned gifts. There are donors across the country who want to give major-gift-sized donations, but do not have the flexibility in their budgets to do so. Planned giving works around that. Take a donor who has given a series of small gifts for years. The donor comes to events that you host, volunteers to make calls during phonathons, and is always actively praising your nonprofit on social media. That same donor can allocate a gift in her will that leaves her money to your organization when she no longer needs it. In many ways, planned giving is a major gifts equalizer.

Planned Giving Benefits for Donors

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