Integration and Planned Giving

Integration and Planned Giving

After decades of work, non-profit donor databases are maturing quickly. This means planned giving is fast becoming a more important part of any organization’s fundraising programme – but if you don’t proactively reap the harvest of years of investment in your database, it will be a real missed opportunity.

One of the greatest challenges faced by a Planned Giving officer is identifying real prospects. Large donor databases can make donor identification more challenging.

From your enormous donor files, who should you be targeting for a Legacy Gift, how can you identify them and why is having an integrated program the way forward?

Planned Givers=Older Donors – Who are your planned giving prospects?

The most obvious answer is your older loyal donor, right?

They have been supporting your mission for years and, as they are older, are probably closer to taking stock of their life.

But should you be casting the net wider? The Next Generation of Canadian Giving study, carried out earlier this year, gives insights into donor behaviour in different generational groups.

It shows donors of all ages are open to leaving or have already left a legacy. You’ll see below the incredible potential to engage, and educate, younger donors on leaving a legacy (or even leaving stocks or bonds). Non-profits need to use all channels to educate, inspire, and engage younger donors on these issues.

Non-profit databases are full of loyal donors who believe in the mission, integrity, and the value of their chosen organizations. Some of these donors may have been giving for decades by the time they reach an age where they are seriously reflecting on their lives, and the mark they will leave on the world. They are considering how they would like to leave a further final gift – their legacy. If this is the case, there is a good possibility your organization may be included in their Will – all the more likely if you work for it and have a pro-active Planned Giving Program in place.

Planned Giving Strategy

Planned giving used to be an area of fundraising left essentially to chance. Donors included a non-profit in their Will and the organization gratefully received the generous gift. Little strategy was employed and often planned giving had no real structure or budget to run a pro-active program.

All of this has changed. Planned giving, just like monthly giving, event fundraising, emergency or holiday campaigns, needs budget, long-term strategy, and a pro-active approach.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking Planned Giving = Older Donors = Traditional Communications (Direct Mail silo). It’s true that many older donors do like to receive mail to peruse in their own time. But it’s also true that if this is the only method of communications used you may be missing an opportunity to reach other donors. Planned giving, like all fundraising for your organization, will only benefit from an integrated holistic approach. Another takeaway from the Next Generation of Canadian Giving study is that donors of all ages are “multi-channel” users – all age groups are comfortable receiving mailings but also want the flexibility of other options. The study also shows that over 24% of donors older than 65 give online.

By integrating communications, you’re creating multiple opportunities for contact. This increases the likelihood of reaching donors where they want (or expect) to be reached. True integration allows the organization to send a message through one channel and gives the recipient the chance to respond using another. Integrated communications give you extra opportunities to reach your donors if they didn’t get the message the first time. Even if the dog chewed up the mail pack, they were visiting friends when you made the phone call but that email you sent as a reminder sat in the inbox until they got round to checking for news from the family…..and there you were extending the invitation for that face-to-face meeting or event!

Departmental Integration

Integration doesn’t just mean using different channels to contact donors –departments within an organization need to work together. For Planned Giving, the most obvious partner is the Major Gift department.

Both planned givers and major gifters tend to be loyal donors to your organization with a long giving history. They strongly believe in the mission and feel confident a larger gift (in the shape of a legacy or a major gift) is the logical and emotional next step to their many years of regular giving. Some may leave a gift in a Will and others want to see how they helped while still alive. Planned giving and major gift officers’ prospect files are therefore likely to have overlap. Make sure your communications have a similar voice, messaging and level of personalization.

Integrated Surveys to Identify Legacy Prospects

Well-crafted, multi-channel surveys have proven to be instrumental in identifying the best legacy prospects in many successful planned giving programmes. However, without clear objectives and careful crafting, surveys could garner low response rates, poor quality answers, or worse: they can be provocative and insulting.

Online scored legacy surveys provide high quality leads and contacts. There’s been a huge rise in the quality and quantity of online responses, even in older age groups. Negative comments or reactions to the survey process are minimal. The majority of comments that we’ve seen throughout our 10 years of using online scored legacy surveys are giving thanks or praise for the organization and their work, and many people share something personal in their life or their giving history.

A well-written and executed survey gives your donors the chance to contribute in a different way, opening the door to conversations and building a real relationship. Excellent surveys offer people the chance to share their preferences and level of satisfaction; collect simple demographic data (invaluable but sometimes missing from donor files); provide a space to share comments and feedback on topics that are relevant and important; and help encourage self-selection.

After deploying the online survey, using the same survey in the mail and on the telephone will help reach those who prefer not to use the digital channel. Cultivation and stewardship of legacy prospects should, similarly, be multi-channel, taking into consideration donor communication preferences.

Engage Your Donors

We are standing on the edge of the demographic precipice with our donor databases. Our large, aging segments need a more proactive, multi-channel engagement now. And younger donors (as seen in the research above) are beginning to think of, and respond to, the ideas of leaving a legacy too. Engage them in a multi-channel journey now that keeps you top of mind when they’re considering their legacy gifts in years to come.


This article was written by Lindsay Sievewright, Fundraising Innovation Consultant at hjc, and first appeared in the August issue of Gift Planning in Canada.


posted on Oct 25

2 Responses to “Integration and Planned Giving”

  1. Question for Lindsay,

    Thanks for the article. I’m excited about the integration and planned giving process.

    In terms of your communication style, how do you determine whether to use the words planned giving, gift planning or legacy giving?

    An interesting conundrum.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

  2. Lindsay says:

    Hi Helen,

    Thanks for your question. It is something I have given thought to and have come to the conclusion that simple is best.
    Often the terminology we use as fundraisers is confusing and this can lead to potential donors turning off – if they aren´t clear what you want from them (You want me to plan a gift? What about if I donate something in the Fall?) they are unlikely to dig deep.

    When talking to donors I prefer to use something like leave a gift in your Will or name our organization in testament.

    I find language like that cuts down on confusion.
    As a tip, try it out on non-fundraising friends – if they understand what you mean you are going down the right path.

    Good luck!

Leave a Reply