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For Maintaining a Vibrant Planned Giving Program, the “Old” Norms are Perfectly Fine

Thursday, May 28, 2020 9:42 AM | Anna Matheson (Administrator)

Written by: Lynn Johnson-Porter, VP Philanthropy & Mission Support, HumanGood

The last few months certainly have forced many of us to reframe how we engage our most loyal benefactors.

Regularly, I reach out to one particular resident at our largest Life Plan community to hear about her experiences as she navigates recommendations to “shelter in place” which ultimately disconnect her from the socially enriching experiences that have traditionally afforded her so much pleasure. Through it all, this resident exemplifies the spirit of philanthropy by affirming her commitment to annual donations, annual major gifts and an estate donation to honor the memory of her husband.

Throughout this unprecedented time, she has remained optimistic, often upholding her pledge to “give back”, primarily in tribute to the unselfish actions of front-line staff who care for her and in tribute to the members of her extended family, who have given her happy memories for nearly 15 years.

These days, many of us continue to field advice about how best to navigate the “new normal.”  Working from home, decreased personal interactions with benefactors, teleconferencing, etc., continue to transform the manner in which we conduct donor relations. Nonetheless, my experiences in recent months remind me that when motivating prospects and donors toward Planned Giving opportunities, the “old norms” are perfectly fine.

Philanthropy and Planned Giving, especially, aren’t solely about the achievement of goals. Instead, we need to sustain those fundamental practices that motivate others toward transformational gifts.  

As this crisis causes us to pause and evaluate strategies toward the attainment of goals, remember that basic fundraising principles still have tremendous value.

Moving forward, let’s consider infusing these four “C” s into our programming:

  • 1.      Connect: Personal phone calls are one of the most impactful ways to foster relationships with donors.  Many benefactors, particularly seniors, truly appreciate such gestures as they may be isolated from so many who mean most to them.
  • 2.      Create New Planned Giving Opportunities:  Uncover ways to deepen relationships with major gift benefactors who have not yet made deferred commitments. This crisis is prompting many visionary philanthropists to give careful thought to ways to make a meaningful impact upon the lives of others long into the future. 
  • 3.      Communicate: Design a series of touch points from now until the conclusion of 2020 for your benefactors and prospects, including emails and direct mail, to reinforce your mission and express appreciation for their decision to include your organization among their philanthropic priorities.  Make certain to share stories about the front-line heroes and heroines across your organization, whose dedication to service fosters the well-being on myriad levels.  Such messaging will serve you well in 2021 and beyond.
  • 4.      Celebrate:  A stewardship event to demonstrate appreciation to your most loyal benefactors—when this crisis is behind us-- will be a worthwhile investment to not only acknowledge generosity, but uncover sentiments about giving at all levels.  In addition to fostering good will, you will gain valuable insight into the inclinations of those who have supported your organization in the past-- and hold promise for its future.


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