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About

Viken Mikaelian
Viken Mikaelian

Do I have an attitude?

There are so many half-truths and directionless misinformation out there about online fundraising that it’s driving me crazy!

The formality would be to give you my bio; no, forget that. I’d rather give you my philosophy. It will tell you much more about me. Bios are boring; just as planned giving is boring to the average civilian.

I used to be in the graphic design / marketing business. We produced countless planned giving brochures for prestigious non-profits such as the Ivies, Wharton, NYU, Haverford, Villanova… you name it. I was in charge of reading and proofing these brochures. Yet after 15 years of proofing, I still could not figure out what the heck planned giving was about.

Partners In Crime Behind Closed Doors

Planned giving has always mustered up thoughts of older sophisticated men in their conservative suits smoking cigars and sipping martinis at local country clubs, while discussing high-level secret ways of dealing with the rich and donating to charity while evading the IRS.

This vision of planned giving, whether true or imagined, is changing fast; partly due to do the younger generation stepping in, but also due to the fact that our marketing efforts at Virtual Giving are paying off; promoting a more donor friendly, benefits-based approach to planned giving versus a “promoting death” approach. I am not saying this to pat myself on the back; our marketing ideas since 1999 have truly helped many think in new ways.

My Ignorance.

The main reason I personally have shed a new light on planned giving is because of my ignorance. I entered this field knowing absolutely nothing about planned giving and I am still trying to do my damndest to stay that way. Why? Because planned giving is marketing… not fundraising. If you are constantly learning planned giving minutiae to get to know the law inside and out instead of learning marketing or at least how to talk to prospects, soon you will not have any prospects to talk to. This is the number one reason why planned giving marketing fails.

Stop Promoting Death.

Planned giving no longer requires morose, burgundy and grey newsletters with the words “DEATH” spelled all over written by expert lawyers. And my lawyer friends agree.

This blog covers a lot about planned giving marketing in the 21st century and if you are turned off by my attitude and decide not to read further, you will be missing out on a lot of good information; if you decide to proceed I assure you that you will have a new and fresh outlook towards planned giving; as well as a few more insulting fun articles like this one to look forward to.

Because I tell it as it is.

Why Is There So Much Unproductive Fundraising Out There?

Most fundraisers are just about clueless when it comes to marketing. And in fundraising, you need to know marketing.

They are, therefore, victims preyed on by vendors who don’t know more about how to actually produce a prospect or close a gift than they do. If you try to get a fundraiser to accurately tell you where his donations come from, what it costs to walk a prospect from A to B, or what results specifically come from this mailing, this ad, or the other, he can’t. He’s guessing. Consequently he’s often grumpy and unhappy about things he shouldn’t be and also wasting money he needn’t be.

Incest.

The reasons for the cluelessness and victimization are many. Here’s a big one: Incest. When we all got into the planned giving business, we all probably looked around at what everyone else was doing in planned giving, and copied it. This included me, the guilty author. Gradually we all tried to do it better, but not radically different, just better. So you have everyone in this industry standing in a circle looking inward at each other, checking GIFT-PL, attending AFP, AHP and NCPG meetings, ignoring anything outside of the circle. It is incestuous and it works like real generational incest: Everybody slowly gets dumber, and dumber and dumber.

Please do not misunderstand me, and I am not trying to be insulting for I have been there myself. It’s just that many fundraisers are running about playing a marketing version of Blind Archery. A very dangerous game.

Will my posts at PlannedGiving.Com solve all your problems? No, but they will definitely help you carve a hole in your circle and bring in fresh new ideas, gradually helping many fundraisers step away from the Blind Archery or “shotgun approach” to marketing, and begin targeting prospects with armed intelligence and real know-how.

Just to Make Sure.

I am not advocating that you stop learning planned giving or tax law; neither am I advocating you to stop attending your council meetings. Not at all, not at all. They are some of the most useful and fun get-togethers in the business and I absolutely love attending them myself. Just get ready to carve that hole in your circle and announce how you did so at your next council meeting; also be certain to tell your friends that it was this website that helped shed new light on your ideas.

All you need is a small paradigm shift. You can begin by reading Stop Promoting Death.


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