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Stop Making Planned Giving So Complicated

By Patton McDowell, PMA President

The North Carolina and South Carolina Planned Giving Councils host a fantastic annual conference each spring at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, NC. I had the chance to present a session and enjoy great dialogue with colleagues from throughout the southeastern United States, and realized the fundamental challenge facing many nonprofits: they know they need to incorporate planned giving, but don’t know where to begin.

David Routh, former Director of Gift Planning at UNC Chapel Hill and now Managing Director at US Trust, captured very well some of the key issues facing development directors in all nonprofit sectors as they strive to build planned giving programs. Note his seven “Observations and Shared Experiences”:

  1. As a charitable community, we have made planned giving too complicated and too technical.
  2. Tax leverage doesn’t create the gift conversation, but it can substantially grow the gift and help close it.
  3. Wealthy families are busier than you think, and are distracted from the charitable conversation in a thousand ways.
  4. Advisors to wealthy families are still somewhat reluctant to raise the charitable option in planned giving discussions.
  5. Clients have spent the last couple of years deleveraging. What does that really mean, and what are the implications for the charitable sector?
  6. Very important observation-wealthy donors (with capacity) have narrowed their list of charitable priorities.
  7. In addition to dealing with the well-documented financial crisis, our donors and clients are dealing with an economic environment that is changing fundamentally.

While his observations illustrate a number of considerations that can help sharpen your planned giving program, his fundamental message was clear: communicate the impact of your organization’s mission to your key donors, and illustrate the power of legacy giving. The technical aspects of the various gift instruments will work themselves out later – just focus on the relationship and on giving the donor an insider’s view of your organization. If they feel invested, their short and long-term philanthropy will follow.

Patton McDowell, President