Love, Family and Estate Planning

My father hated estate planning. The words conjured up technical mumbo-jumbo he preferred not to think about.

My dad was no dummy. He was a skilled eye surgeon and respected lecturer in the medical community. So it’s not that he couldn’t have understood the technical language if he had wanted to. But in the later years of his life, my dad was a simple guy. He spent his mental energy on trying to grow the perfect tomato. He watched tacky reruns of comedy shows from the 50s. The last thing he wanted to think about was “estate planning.”

So he didn’t. He passed away a year ago without an estate plan.

Don’t scare away your donors.

I’ve discovered that my dad’s attitude toward estate planning—a mix of fear and loathing—is very common.

I can’t help but chuckle when I see the “Estate Planning Kits” that non-profits and their vendors hand out. One came across my desk recently that was 28 pages with an accompanying CD-ROM. It was loaded with text. Text, text everywhere! It made my head spin. It even had quizzes on estate planning.

What are we doing? Sending our prospects to law school? Does this sound “donor-centric” to you?

The older we get, the slower we process. So the technical terms typically used to explain “estate planning” scare people off. They really do. They remind us of learning a second language—something many of us wish we had done as a young child because we sure as heck aren’t going to now!

But here’s the thing I wish I would have been able to tell my father: you don’t have to learn another language to “get” planned giving.

Some clients are very sophisticated. They manage trusts, endowments, and real estate. So of course it makes sense to provide those clients with more detailed estate planning information. But even then, start with the basics. Sophisticated donors are busy people and don’t have time to wade through a bog of details. Give them the basics and let them ask for more information about the areas they’re interested in. And for goodness sake, don’t give them comprehensive estate planning information. Give them planned giving information they can incorporate into their estate plan. The last thing a charity should do is accidentally get into estate planning. I would like to see my clients avoid any appearance of offering legal and financial advice (those fine-print disclaimers aren’t an excuse to give advice you shouldn’t be giving).

The vast majority of your prospects are like my dad. Smart, perhaps. Capable, yes. But with zero interest in learning another language in order to understand a 28-page estate planning guide.

We recently decided to create an estate planning kit “for the rest of us.” It’s only twelve pages with no technical jargon and lots of white space. We designed it to inspire the donor to become a philanthropist rather than bog him or her down in detail.

So before you produce a booklet and slap Estate Planning on the cover, check out our simple, donor-friendly alternative. Choose from 12 attractive cover designs or we can customize one especially for you. Better yet, consider holding a webinar on estate planning for your donors.


Leave a reply