Making the ask, Part 4

By Todd Cohen

Organizations often can identify their prospective planned-gift donors by studying existing donors’ giving patterns, and looking for donors who have given to the organization on a regular basis.

“I tend to look for the number of gifts, rather than the dollar volume,” says Roger Ellison, vice president for planned giving at the West Texas Rehabilitation Center Foundation in San Angelo, Tex. “I’m looking for passion rather than generosity.”

Shari Fox, director of gift planning at the University of Cincinnati Foundation, says she looks for donors with “a significant, usually long-term giving relationship with the organization.”

Kathryn Miree, a consultant in Birmingham, Ala., Miree looks for “multi-year” givers who also may have “other points of contact” with the organization, such as membership, board service or volunteerism, or personal or family use of services.

“If you look at the donor base, my top 25 or 50 prospects will be people with the most points of contact,” she says. “And when I go to them, I know they’re ready to talk to me. I know they know about the organization.”

Michelle Mulia-Howell, assistant vice president for planned giving at the American Lung Association in New York City, says it identifies planned-giving prospects through direct-mail marketing and personal relationships.

Studying its donor database, the association uses criteria such as age and a pattern of repeated giving to select which donors will get targeted planned-giving mailings.

In October, for example, the association distributed a mailing about charitable gift annuities to 250,000 donors age 75 and over, compared to an average age of 70 for all donors in its database.

In addition to whatever specific planned-giving strategy they promote, all mailings also ask donors whether they have included the association in their will.

Donors who say they have then get a thank-you note and recognition-society membership.

Regional, state and local offices of the association cultivate their own individual donors, Mulia-Howell says, and the national planned-giving staff provides them with consulting support.

The goal, she says, is to “take a donor and move them up the giving ladder.”


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 3: Planned-giving program can begin with simple steps
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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