Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bequest Thinking

  Phyllis Freedman is the author of The Planned Giving Blogger ( and a planned giving consultant. Go to her blog, choose the bequests catagory, and look for the post "New Research Enlightens".  It highlights a presentation by Dr. Russell James in which he describes what is going on in the brain when people consider making a bequest.  Sometime ago, I realized that donors don't wake up in the middle of the night thinking, "I have just got to put a bequest in my will for the benefit of United Way."  Rather it is their passion for impact that wakes them up and the bequest serves as a means.  Phyllis highlights Dr. James' theories about the connections people make between the stories of their lives and a good donor story from someone else who has already taken the next step with a bequest to support their cause. There looks to be quite a few good posts worth reading, so bookmark this one. 
I couldn't resist adding this picture of Lake Erie at sundown from the back of the house in Bratenahl, Ohio where I wrote this post.  I continue to experiment with BlogTouch and so far so good.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Charitable Giving Increases in 2012

I'm writing this morning from the Hampton Inn in Horse Cave, KY on the way to Cleveland OH.  I'm also trying out a new ipad/iphone app called BlogTouch.  There are no guarantees how this will look once its posted.

Found this morning in a report from the website that charitable giving increased in 2012.  The largest increases were to the arts and humanities, the sector which saw the biggest cuts during the recession.  Much of the increase came from corporate support, although there were modest increases in individual giving, largely attributed to uncertainty over the future of the charitable tax deduction.  The Giving USA Foundation publishes an annual statistical report that you can download for about $90 (which I didn't), but you can read a good summary of their findings (which I did) under the news tab.

There is a sister organization, The Giving Institute, with a website at  Both sites look to be worth exploring.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Cart and the Horse

It is ever so tempting to start off your program with the cart and horse in the wrong positions.  You can easily spend all your time and energy writing policies and printing brochures and doing everything to get ready to talk to donors.  I've done it and I can tell you that policies and brochures do not bring in gifts.  So, from everything I've learned from others with far better ideas than mine, the best next step to take in starting your program is to start talking to donors - any donors. 

Start with an elevator speech.  It is your sales pitch and it should take no longer than the time it would take to ride an elevator from the ground to the penthouse.  You can read my current elevator speech by clicking HERE (a reminder that I upload these documents to Google Drive and they are supposed to be virus free).  It is current because it changes all the time in the never ending attempt to make the message better.  I spent a lot of time intially practicing this speech on my fellow UWCA employees and our elevator only goes 5 floors.  I would highly recommend doing the same in your organization.  Once your boss likes what you have to say, call a few volunteers and ask if you can practice with them.  You never know, it could start them thinking about making a Legacy gift. 
As your confidence builds, your message will get better and then will come the day when you find yourself standing next to a 20 year donor in an elevator and you will be ready.  More importantly, you will have developed the message that will also work well in letters, brochures, and websites.  Soon you will land your first gift and then you can write retread some policies.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

At the Starting Line

You are at the starting line.  Your boss and perhaps her boss have decided your United Way needs an endowment and a planned giving program.  Now they have handed you a new title, reams of recommendations, and a goal of starting it all successfully.  Never fear, you are really in a pretty good place.  Lots of us in the UW planned giving world have already made the mistakes and benefitted from the lessons learned from experience and the teachings of others who have figured out how to start and where to go.

Recently I was re-reading a Kathryn Miree article and her emphasis on the importance of beginning with that essential and eternal endowment question, "Why are we doing this?"  The answer is called your Case Statement and Kathryn points out the need for both external and internal statements.  The internal statement communicates the need to your staff, how an endowment and planned giving program will fit into your resource development efforts, and how the gifts and expectancies will be counted and accounted.  The external statement communicates with your donors the reason they should give to the endowment.  A good external statement should:
  • Inspire vision
  • Inspire passion
  • Be urgent
  • Involve the Donor
  • Be brief enough to be useful.
We didn't have an internal case statement when our programs were first started in 1991, however I did pull the "Case for Support" as a reminder of our purpose.  It reads
United Way should raise a signficant endowment for the purpose of launching major community initiatives aimed at specific problems in the community.  This would enable UW to select issues, commit to single or multi year funding and attract other partners from the community to collaborate to create real and lasting change.
You will also find a good Case for Endowment on the website of  St. Matthew's Parish School in Pacific Pallisades, CA. 

The best way I have found to build your case is to gather a small group of volunteers and ask the questions, "Why should we have an endowment?" and "Why should you give to the endowment?"  With a good external case statement in hand, bring together a diverse group of staff and ask the same questions to develop your internal statement.  Remember, these can change with time, knowledge, and program development.

The last bit of advice I am going to share today comes from the experience of others.  Endowments should not be started to pay the administrative costs of your United Way.  I could write pages on why this is just not a good idea.  Contact me and I will give you several LUW's who made that choice and have found that it is a difficult mistake to correct when you've learned your lesson.

I plan to add several more resources over the next few posts that will help you at the starting line of your endowment and planned giving programs.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Overhead Myth

I'm a pilot, so I had to use
airplanes OVERHEAD to illustrate!

Take a look at  Guidestar, the BBB, and Charity Navigator have joined together in a new initiative to counter the media's obsession with "Overhead" costs of nonprofits.  I first started thinking about the sense this makes after watching the Ted Talk with Dan Pallotta speaking on "The way we think about charity is dead wrong" (search Ted Talk and Dan Pallotta).  Later I watched the video from the UWW Staff Leaders Conference which may be archived on the UWW website.  Now comes this website and perhaps the conversation will move to a new level. 

Monday, June 17, 2013


PPP is the national organization for planned giving.  Formerly the National Committee on Planned Giving (NCPG), PPP is dedicated to the promotion of charitable gift planning through research, education, advocacy, community dialogue and the setting of standards and best practices in philanthropic planning.  The website at is home to a wealth of information including the Valuation Standards for Charitable Planned Gifts.  This answers the question of how do you count planned gifts received by your United Way in your campaigns. 

PPP is also the gateway to your local Planned Giving Council. Many areas host these organizations dedicated to furthering planned giving in local communities.  In Birmingham, I am a member of the Alabama Planned Giving Council along with other planned giving professionals, CPAs, estate planning attorneys, and financial advisors.  Our website is found at  The Planned Giving Council in your area is a good way to link up with other professionals who will help you get started with your own program.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

More Donor Recognition

To-Ga. To-Ga. To-Ga.  
Every John Belushi fan recognizes this reference immediately!  It's also the title to a great article in the June 1 edition of The NonProfit Times by Susan Ellis.  Susan is President of Energize ( and she challenges us to come up with new recognition events that are meaningful, fun, and well-attended.  Yeah, yeah, I know we have all heard that before, but she offers some really thought-inspiring suggestions.  You will find the article on The NonProfit Times website HERE.

I also came across another excellent article in Planned Giving Today.  Rebecca Rothey in "First, You Have to Get In the Door" shares her keys to success for getting in the door with a prospect.  Rebecca is the director of major and planned giving at the Baltimore Community Foundation.  You will find her article in the June 2013 edition of Planned Giving Today.  You can only access the article online if you are a Planned Giving Today subscriber.  It is well worth the 10 minutes or so it will take to read and will give you some new tips for the next time you sit down with the names of good prospects and the telephone.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Recognizing Legacy Society Members

How to recognize your Legacy Society members is one of those tough challenges.  People don't like you to spend money, but you want to recognize your donors as an example for others. After a good deal of experimentation (and some 1st rate failures) we have come up with a few ideas that have worked for us.  If you click on the name of the first 2 items, it will open the PDF in a new window from Google Drive. 

The Legacy Society Listing recognizes all of our donors who have given $1,000 or more to the endowment.  We take this listing on all calls to prospects and you'd be amazed how they will look through the names and find other people they know.    We produce this in house on 11x17 paper.  Our graphics guru uses one of his many programs and if you want to know more, I'll ask him which one.  The only cost for us are the color copies.
A Brochure Insert is very flexible and we produce these in house using Publisher.  You can swap them out to fit the prospect you are visiting.  We are trying to build a library of these inserts with a variety of different donor stories.  I've never had a donor tell me we couldn't tell their story.
Finally, this is a 4 foot by 3 foot foam board listing the names of our Million Dollar Legacy Circle and Tocqueville Legacy Circle.  We put it on an easel in a prominent place during events, dinners, etc.  The names of the donors who have joined in the last year are underlined so they stand out.  Any number of donors will look to see who they know and we always have a Champion standing nearby to talk about how they can join TLC or MDC.  We outsource this project and I seem to remember that it cost $100 to produce, but we use it all year.  If someone new joins during the year, we add a well crafted Post-It Note in the margins with an error pointing to where their name will go on next year's board.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Giving 2.0 & Whoodl

Thanks to a WSJ article, I found a wealth of information on Laura Arrillaga-Andressen's website at  Laura teaches Philanthropy at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and her bio alone is worth reading.  But don't stop there!  This website has a wealth of information including "project u" where she has uploaded her class lectures, syllabi, and case studies.  It will take several hours of exploring to get all the valuable resources you can find on this site.

Also, I love Apps.  I am not sure how I ever got along without my iPhone or iPad, but I am definitely glad I have them now.  A while back I found an App that is helping me remember names and how I know people.  Whoodl lets you enter a name and then an almost unlimited amount of reminders, facts, data, whatever it takes to jog your memory.  Then when you run across someone and you can't remember their name, annual gift, or why you know them, just put in anything you know about them in the search window and up comes all the possibilities.  It's great for those moments when you see that big donor and draw a total blank on their name and all the details you would just love to know at that very moment.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

5 Easy (and Good) Steps to Start a PG Program

Starting a Planned Giving program at a small (or any size) United Way can be a rather daunting task.  There are any number of "How-to" resources that can leave you with that glazed over look and the absolute certainty that it will never work.  Don't give up!  Today I came across a really good blog post that makes it all seem possible.

Go to The NYSARC Blog and there you will find an article by their development consultant, Judi Taylor Cantor, well worth reading.  Planned Giving doesn't have to be complicated and Judi's article illustrates this idea so well.  It might be a while before you are ready to offer your donors Charitable Gift Annuities (step 5), but when you reach that point, remember the United Way Worldwide Charitable Gift Annuity program as well as United Way Life.  These 2 programs offer your United Way all the benefits without many of the administrative  headaches.  Finally Judi's concluding comments on patience should be taped to everyone's wall and read daily.

The entire website is also excellent and a few minutes spent following the links will offer even more valuable resources for starting your program.  There is a link on the right side of the page that will take you to more of The Fundraising Files written by Judi.


Monday, June 3, 2013

7 Ways to Build Rapport with Donors Using Creative ‘Thank You’s

This morning's PPP group email from LinkedIn referenced this article from the blog "Clairification" which you will find by clicking HERE or you can get there by Googling the article title.  Claire Axelrad has some good ideas about simple ways to say "Thank You" to our donors.

If you aren't "LinkedIn" I would recommend you open an account.  It's free and it is an easy way to stay connected with other PG folks and your donors.  I have found that donors typically update their LinkedIn accounts fairly quickly when they change jobs and you will receive notice of their new position.  The groups can be valuable resources as well.  Register for LinkedIn and then "Link" with me.

Have a good Monday and if you have a good way to thank donors, send it to me.  I'll post it and give you all the credit, honors, and accolades.