As development professionals, we know it’s important to research and plan the actions necessary for a successful campaign. For example, with capital campaigns, I think it’s widely understood that the process usually starts with board consensus regarding the need, which in kind donations for nonprofits then leads to a feasibility study. This becomes the foundation for a plan that determines the tone and parameters for achieving success in the campaign. Budgeting is integral to the process and board members understand their roles and responsibilities from the onset of the campaign. It’s generally accepted that planning ahead for a fundraising initiative helps to avoid unpleasant surprises and bodes well for success.
Somehow this kind of forethought isn’t standard procedure with planned giving campaigns. Planned giving is really just another way to raise money in addition to major gifts, annual gifts, grant writing, etc. but somehow a definitive planning process is”t often utilized. How come?
Perhaps it’s because some board members don’t fully see the real benefit of a planned giving program to the organization’s future security; maybe they are unsure of how it works in conjunction with other fundraising activity so they don’t know how (or even if) they should proceed with it at all. Maybe it’s because many development professionals are themselves insecure with the planned giving process and feel inadequate in explaining the importance of a campaign to board members. Of course it’s hard to create a plan if you’re not even sure how it should work. And yet, there’s a pervasive “feeling” that planned giving options should be an integral part of fundraising activity.
I believe that putting off the start of a planned giving campaign is really not an option today. Nonprofits that wish to stay competitive in the philanthropic community, and retain the respect and loyalty of their supporters, have to make this type of giving available to donors. In times like these it may be the only way some people will be able to give. It’s certainly one of the best ways of strengthening donor involvement and “ownership” of your mission. And board member participation in the campaign, as with any major fundraising effort, is paramount to its success.
I respectfully urge the board members and/or development executives of nonprofits that have been around for more than five years and receive a large proportion of their charitable gifts from individuals (rather than the government or corporations or foundations) to begin the discussion about a planned giving program if you don’t already have one. Start the process for creating an action plan that will lead to a successful result of endowment growth and the future security of your organization.