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Making the ask, Part 1

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By Todd Cohen

Roger Ellison makes cold-call visits.

Shari Fox probes for organizational connections.

And Mary Tambiah counts on marketing.

Yet while the tactics may differ, those professionals and other fundraising experts agree that knowing when and how to ask for a planned gift is highly personal, requiring above all the ability to listen carefully and attend to donors.

That attention, they say, can take many forms, including analyzing donors’ giving history, understanding their questions, concerns and values, and even interpreting their verbal cues and body language.

“It’s very subjective,” says Ellison, vice president for planned giving at the West Texas Rehabilitation Center Foundation in San Angelo, Tex. “Your donor is going to tell you when it’s okay to ask.”

With charities expected to get at least $6 trillion of the $41 trillion expected to be transferred between generations over the next 50 years, planned giving has become a highly competitive and sophisticated strategy for fundraising professionals and donors.

“The planned gift is almost always a more thoughtful and carefully constructed gift because it is more typically a gift that is made from the donor’s overall financial planning and estate planning,” says Tim Seiler, director of public service and The Fund Raising School at Indiana University.

Unlike an annual gift a donor typically makes using discretionary income, a planned gift is given from a donor’s overall asset base, and is “the result of a lifetime’s accumulation of assets,” he says.

“A planned gift involves a lot of diligence and planning,” he says. “It’s a real service of nonprofit organizations to encourage their donors to think about estate planning because they may want to have some say over what happens to their estate and wealth when they die.”


Other stories in the series:

Part 2:  Laying the groundwork critical before approaching donors
Part 3: Planned-giving program can begin with simple steps

Part 4: Nonprofits study giving patterns to identify planned-giving prospects
Part 5: Strategies vary for timing requests for planned gifts.
Part 6: Planned gifts can flow from conversations about other donor issues

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