Who Says You Need Planned Giving in a Campaign? We do!

A campaign is a special event in an organization’s life, so it requires a different way of thinking about planned giving. Contrary to what some believe, there are no data supporting the theory that outright giving will decrease if planned giving is introduced. What the data do show is that only the composition of gifts will change.

According to campaign consultants, planned gifts often constitute 25 to 40 percent of campaign totals. That percentage may depend partly on how such gifts are counted. In any case, if they were excluded, campaign goals would be considerably reduced. Even more important than an impressive goal is giving everyone a sense of ownership by enabling them to participate in some way that is appropriate for them. 

This is best accomplished by fully integrating planned giving in the capital campaign, so here are some tips on how to do it:

  • The campaign organizational structure must reflect the fact that planned giving is an important component. 

There should be a Planned Gifts Committee responsible for encouraging future gifts of all sizes. A committee that regularly reports to campaign leadership keeps planned giving in the consciousness of all those involved in the campaign. The absence of such a committee sends a message that planned gifts are not a priority of the campaign.

  • Planned giving training sessions should be offered to development staff and all volunteers.   

Being able to suggest alternatives may be the difference between securing and not securing a campaign gift. The object of the training is not to transform volunteers and general development officers into technical experts, but to enable them to suggest giving methods for the situations they may encounter. The technical experts from the gift planning office can then be called upon to assist donors with gift design. 

  • Give development officers, as well as volunteers, an incentive for initiating planned gifts and making referrals. 

If a development officer’s role in initiating planned gifts is not taken into consideration in evaluating job performance, there is little incentive to spend time on them. A survey conducted by the American Council on Gift Annuities (ACGA) a couple of years ago found that for many universities and other large charities, the number one source of planned giving prospects was referrals from major gift officers. Those referrals are far more likely to happen when the referring officer is credited. When major gift and planned giving officers collaborate on gift, it is recommended that both be credited with the full value of the gift, thereby discouraging territoriality and stimulating consultation and collaboration.

  • Have counting policies that include planned gifts

There are a variety of ways planned gifts can be counted. However, if they are not counted in some manner and regularly included in campaign reports, they will not be taken seriously.  Policies should be settled upon before the campaign begins. They need to be equitable and transparent. In particular, they should not create disincentives for outright gifts, which will be of more value to the charity than deferred gifts. The policies should also foster careful record keeping and clear reporting that rule out inflated results and double counting vis-à-vis prior campaigns.


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