Planned-giving software: Part 3

By Todd Cohen

Crescendo and PG Calc, the two major players in the planned-giving software market, offer “essentially the same product” in terms of features and cost, says Margaret Holman, president of Holman Consulting in New York City.

“You really can’t go wrong” with either product, both of which her firm recommends to its clients, she says. “Where you do go wrong is if you have a client but can’t do the calculations in a timely fashion.”

Donors typically shop around among their favorite philanthropies, she says, “and those that get back to them in the most timely fashion with the best rate and have the best rapport with the donor will usually get the gift.”

While both companies provide software that handles heavy calculations and produces words and pictures to illustrate a broad range of planned-giving strategies, says consultant James E. Connell of Connell and Associates in Pinehurst, N.C., Crescendo’s software is “highly donor-focused,” while PG Calc’s is targeted to the experienced planned-giving professional.

PhilanthroTech, by comparison, has built a smaller customer base among professional advisers with its products, which emphasize charitable remainder unitrusts, says Lee Hoffman, its founder and CEO, while Leimberg & LeClair targets its Charitable Financial Planner products to lawyers, accountants and financial planners who occasionally handle charitable computations.

As they start to shop, says Connell, nonprofits should talk to other nonprofits that use planned-giving software, attend training sessions offered by vendors and ask for free software samples they can try out.

Nonprofits also should find out what kind of staff training vendors offer in using the software, and what kind of technical back-up they offer on an ongoing basis, says Heather Gee, vice president for development services at the Philadelphia Foundation.

“A lot of planned-giving donors, when they’re ready, they’re ready,”
she says.

If during a phone call, a prospective donor asks a questions about the implications of a particular scenario for a specific planned-giving technique, Gee says, the nonprofit fundraiser should be able to put the donor on hold, telephone the vendor’s technical support line, and quickly get back to the donor with the answer.

“They will be able to help you understand it enough in your own right that you can confidently explain it to your donors,” she says. “This is a critical piece in who I would go with.”

Other stories in the series:

Part 1: Firms gear calculation software for gift planning. 
Part 2: Consulting, tools available for nonprofits mulling planned giving. 
Part 4: Crescendo Interactive offers desktop and online products. 
Part 5: PG Calc software calculates, illustrates, manages data.  
Part 6: Small vendors market calculators

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