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Convincing Your Boss and Your Board

What fundraiser has not faced a boss who:

  1. doesn’t understand how planned gifts work,
  2. doesn’t want to learn, and
  3. thinks that planned gifts are an “easy out” for donors who should have made an outright gift?

Sorry, but that boss is not going to smack his forehead one afternoon and exclaim spontaneously, “Where have unitrusts been all my life?”

Steady salesmanship on your part will be required to get access to prospects and a sufficient budget for marketing and prospecting. Here are some techniques to try:

Partner with your colleagues. Share your expertise in joint solicitations. Word of how your planned gift option salvaged a solicitation or increased a donor’s commitment will get to the boss.

Suggest gift strategies in staff meetings. Without making a pest of yourself, offer planned gift solutions in discussions about soliciting major donors.

Remind people that planned gifts are not as deferred as people think. The average time from inception to maturity for a planned gift is 7-10 years — only a few years longer than most campaign pledge periods.

Know how to get the facts. If the boss wants to know the top income tax rate, or how much capital gains tax a prospect is facing, it helps if you can be his go-to person.

Consider reporting “Costs per Dollars Raised.” Planned gifts can be sizeable. Calculate the ratio of your budget to your gift totals, and, if it’s favorable, include it in your annual report.

Don’t be shy about your successes. Let the boss know early on about a big bequest or a commitment from a previously reluctant donor because a planned gift option was suggested. It’s good news that he can report to his superiors, and, of course, it makes you look good.

Conventional Marketing Wisdom says that you have to get the endorsement and active participation of your organization’s board before you start full-scale marketing. We don’t think so.

Most board members don’t care that you are about to launch a planned giving program. Most of them are solicited and stewarded for their gifts by the head of your organization or the chief fundraising officer, so your soliciting them for a bequest may be blocked politically.

Yes, in small organizations where the board members are well known and influential among the constituency, their endorsement of your program can give it a boost. A presentation to them, followed by a Q and A session, can be a productive use of your time and give you valuable practice describing planned gifts. But don’t ignore your broader base of prospects for long.

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