There is a harsh reality when it comes to raising funds from bequests: Very, very few of a charity’s supporters will leave a bequest to the organization. This includes loyal annual fund donors, donors with the greatest capacity, committed volunteers, and even board members. Most will just not do it! What is a gift officer to do who has metrics to meet for new legacy society participation? The answer is to be cultivating “the right donors.” And just how does a gift officer determine who are “the right donors?”
Testamentary gifts (gifts made at death) are the most common type of planned gift, estimated to be 80% or more of planned gifts received by charities. Donors typically have to confront complicated family and financial issues in the estate planning process. Ask any gift officer who has been involved in planned gift fundraising. They can tell of donors sharing compelling stories of family addictions, marriage instability, costly medical conditions, and financial mismanagement. Donors anguish over leaving a potentially large inheritance to a family member who may lack the skills to prudently manage the inheritance. To complicate matters further, the donor is conflicted about making a final gift to a favorite charity from their estate that will divert assets away from a family member in need of financial support. A testamentary life income gift that will pay steady income to their family member for life, with the remainder going to charity when the life income gift terminates, may be the answer for such a donor. The role of the gift officer is to educate the donor about the possibilities, and if the donor has interest, to encourage a collaborative discussion with the donor’s financial and estate planning advisors.
2014 was a record year for philanthropy in the United States, according to the Giving USA 2015 Annual Report. There was a 7.1% increase in giving dollars over 2013 (5.4% adjusted for inflation). These numbers signal the return of pre-recession giving patterns. Some experts had predicted it would take 10 years for charitable giving to rise back to pre-recession levels, so the increases are heartening.
The rapidly increasing use of “digital files” – on smartphones or computers – is something to take into account as you advise prospects on estate planning.