By Todd Cohen
To help finance its move into producing its own television programming in addition to marketing satellite time to other television ministries, The Inspiration Networks in Charlotte, N.C., two years ago launched a planned-giving office.
Like many nonprofits, the nonprofit network of 1,600 cable systems began its planned-giving operation with a “legacy” program, with consultant Robert F. Sharp in Memphis, Tenn., providing marketing materials about bequests.
The TV ministry has added a charitable gift-annuity program, and with Wachovia Charitable Services handling investment of the funds, distributing checks, filing tax reports, and making sure the annuities meet IRS and state requirements, says Chuck Phelps, the ministry’s director of stewardship and planned giving.
PhilanthroCorp also works with the ministry’s donors and their advisers on estate planning.
“The benefit is having that ability to do a proper service for our prospects who have responded to our marketing program with a trained and experienced staff who can work with us,” Phelps says. “It helps us budget-wise and with expertise, without having a large field staff.”
QUESTIONS FOR VENDORS
Nonprofits thinking about outsourcing planned giving should ask vendors a lot of questions, experts said. For example:
* How long has the vendor provided planned-giving services?
* What is the expertise and background of its staff?
* How have its investments performed, and how will it invest the nonprofit’s assets?
* Is the vendor willing to tailor reporting to the nonprofit’s needs, and customize payment checks to include the nonprofit’s name and marketing message?
* Does the vendor have the software, expertise and time to provide effective tax services, administration of planned gifts and investment management?
* What is the vendor’s ability to advise the nonprofit’s planned-giving staff and donors on technical estate-planning matters?
* Is the vendor’s business profitable?
* What does it charge, and how does it calculate its fees, such as charging a percentage of assets under management?
* What liability coverage does the vendor have?
* Who are comparable clients of the vendor?
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