Making the ask, Part 3

By Todd Cohen

Starting a planned-giving program involves simple steps, often prompted either by a big gift or concern about an organization’s long-term future, experts say.

“Organizations begin to think long-term when their operating budget is under control and they’re finally in the black,” says Tom Smith, senior philanthropic adviser at the Vermont Community Foundation in Middlebury.

“And they begin to think about planning for the sustainability of the organization in the future, and they think they need to have an endowment,” he says.

Planned-giving programs typically begin with a bequest effort that involves drafting sample language donors can use to make a bequest, Smith says, and posting that language on the organization’s website and in mailings.

Charities also can educate professional advisers about their bequest programs and encourage them to talk about those programs with their clients.

Mary Tambiah, director of gift and estate planning at Boston University, says laying the groundwork for planned gifts also should focus on training staff.

“Educate other development staff to be more knowledgeable and to look for signs that a life-income gift would be appropriate,” she says. “From the very beginning, include the option of an estate gift, whether it’s a life-income gift or something under the person’s will.”

For the past three years, her office has worked to help development officers for the university’s constituent schools, colleges and programs better understand planned giving “and how you can turn a ‘no’ for an outright gift into a ‘yes’ for a life-income gift,” she says. “Don’t make it an either-or.”

Other stories in the series:

Part 1: Timing, trust key in asking for planned gifts
Part 2: Laying the groundwork critical before approaching donors 
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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