Fundraising for Small Groups Newsletter

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December 16, 2018

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The Three Biggest Mistakes to Avoid
When Starting a Planned Giving
& Endowment Program

by Lorri Greif

Naturally, we want to avoid all mistakes when planning something as important as a Planned Giving or an Endowment program, not just the three biggest. However, no one is perfect and it's understood that mistakes can and do happen. But, while not every mistake guarantees failure ... these three do.

  1. No Board Support.

    As with any fundraising campaign, it is imperative that the organization's board wholeheartedly support a planned giving program, and at the very least understand how important it is to an organization's future. This is because Board members:

    • Assume leadership roles for fundraising, especially designated campaigns.

    • Are the ones that approve budgets, gift acceptance policies, and provide introductions to prospects.

    • Who sit on fundraising committees must respond to more intense peer pressure and have more ownership and pride in a campaign's success.

    • Play a leadership role by setting an example for others.

    • Are the most likely to make a planned gift since their commitment is strong.

  2. Poorly Planned and Unrealistic Budget.

    Every campaign takes planning, and the budget to support those plans. Sometimes, organizations do not take into consideration that creating and growing a successful comprehensive planned giving program involves more that an occasional letter to donors or an article in the quarterly newsletter. Even a very basic "bequests" program requires formalized administration and policies that make it work smoothly and more profitably, and someone to oversee bequest distributions, answer questions from donors and estate executors, and perform some clerical duties. Yet, funds are not allotted for such obvious items as:

    • Marketing materials including brochures, newsletters, etc.

    • Advertising;

    • Direct mail solicitations (design & postage).

    • Recognition

      and not so obvious items such as:

    • Seminars;

    • Professional asset management for planned gifts;

    • Life-income gift administration;

    • Occasional legal or other types of professional expert assistance and more that goes into the budget of a fundraising campaign.

  3. Lack of Knowledge.

    Even with commitment from the board and a well financed campaign, it's imperative that the development professional have knowledge about planned giving vehicles, state rules and regulations, IRS code, and how to correctly and effectively communicate with prospects to market a comprehensive planned giving program. Without the proper guidance and training, how would most development professionals know the following:

    • Some states will not allow reinsurance on charitable gift annuities.

    • Some states require a permit for charitable gift annuities while others require only notification and others have no requirements at all.

    • Charitable gift annuities are contractually backed by all the assets of the charity.

    • Charitable remainder trusts come in many "shapes and sizes" and are very flexible in meeting both donor and charitable goals.

    • Not all bequests are beneficial to all charities' missions.

    • Gifts of real estate and art have different prerequisites of acceptability and may not work as well for some life-income gifts.

    • How the Pension Protection Act of 2006 effects charitable giving.

    • There are all sorts of requirements and protections that go into establishing a charitable gift annuity program.

    • There is so much they don't even know that they need to know.

    Separately, these mistakes may eventually be turned around. Together, they are a recipe for failure. But, by addressing each situation early on, and seeing them as steps to climb in a workable process, the outcome could be a more secure financial future for your nonprofit, supported by a comprehensive planned giving and endowment program.

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    About the Author:

    Lorri M. Greif, CFRE is the President of Breakthrough Philanthropy, Inc., a registered fundraising consulting firm to the nonprofit community, with a specialty in creating and improving planned giving programs. It is also home to easyPGTM, an innovative approach to creating planned giving programs for smaller and intermediate sized organizations. Her experience goes back more than 19 years in nonprofit development.

    She can be reached at and you can see more about her company at

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    ISSN 1530-6127 - Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA
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