By Todd Cohen
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Gift planning is stepping onto philanthropy’s center stage.
More Americans are making planned gifts, or thinking about making them, and they’re planning their gifts at a younger age, says a new study.
The study, the biggest ever of planned giving in the U.S., underscores the need to build gift planning into the heart of a charity’s capital-campaign plans and its relationship with donors, a national expert told North Carolina gift planners this month.
The Indianapolis-based National Committee on Planned Giving, which prepared the study, has launched an initiative to boost gift planning in local communities, including Charlotte.
“We are encouraging more people to remember charities in their estate plans and to leave a legacy for the future,” says Jim Kelley, director of development for the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte and chair of Charlotte’s Leave A Legacy Initiative.
Backed by local foundations, corporations, charities and professional advisers, the Charlotte initiative will hold a kickoff luncheon March 23.
The new study found an increase in planned gifts since 1992, when the National Committee conducted its last survey.
Donors make planned gifts mainly as the result of a charitable impulse, although tax savings also are a factor, the study found, and gift-planning advisers play a key role.
With more Americans making – or thinking about – planned gifts, charitable fundraisers should not isolate planned giving from capital campaigns, Laura Hansen Dean, an Indianapolis consultant, told more than 100 Tar Heel gift planners meeting in Greensboro last week.
“Younger donors want to be part of the process and decision-making, and they’re hands-on,” Dean told the North Carolina Planned Giving Council. “If we’re not setting priorities and goals without some collaboration with our biggest donors, we’re kidding ourselves.”
Leaders of charities, colleges and universities typically set goals for capital campaigns after assessing their needs and the potential for landing big gifts, she said.
Leaders look to capital campaigns for quick cash, she said, and treat planned giving — which can include deferred gifts — as a “clean-up” strategy to boost numerical totals for campaigns falling short of their goals.
Unfortunately, she said, gift planners treat planned giving mainly as tax, accounting, financial-planning and estate-planning strategies they can market to donors to make deferred gifts.
Charities, she said, must do a better job involving donors, identifying their charitable interests, showing them how to make gifts that meet their charitable, personal, business and estate-planning needs – and basing campaign goals on a realistic assessment of major-gift prospects.
“We should be listening,” she said. “I don’t think gift planning is about techniques …Gift planning helps individuals make larger and more satisfying gifts than they normally would otherwise.”
Charlotte’s Leave a Legacy luncheon, to be held at the Adams Mark Hotel, will feature John Sykes, CEO of Sykes Enterprises, an outsourcing-services tech company in Tampa, Fla. For information, call 704-376-0312.