Guest post by Tracey Church
From the first get-go of starting as a research development professional, you realize pretty quickly that while organizations may have silos, either by design or default, and employees have specific program titles, donors have no idea any of these exist – nor should they. If you start your research career with a donor-centered mindset, you will realize that not only are donors gracious, complex, and generous, but they do not fit in any particular “group” or giving silo.
The terms of “major gift officer”, “planned giving officer”, and so on, really should be made obsolete as this not only silos the efforts of the relationship manager (or better yet, Personal Gift Officer) but of the requests and output of the research development team as well. How often have you been asked to research an individual for “major gift capacity” only to find that the prospect and the family may have all of their assets tied up in long-term investments (such as real estate)? Do you cast that prospect aside or look deeper into the possibility that the prospect could really be an excellent planned giving prospect instead — or, better yet, as well?
Welcome to the beautiful world of integrated giving, or blended giving, where all prospects are quite possibly a blend of annual, major, and planned giving — and let’s throw this in as well – potential committee and board volunteers.
Fraser and Yates (2015) noted that the integrated/blended giving approach to prospects will allow the Personal Gift Officers to make sure the donor’s desires are met through major giving, planned giving, or both (and annual giving too!).
In the past several years, I have been presenting at CAGP (Canadian Association for Gift Planners) events nationally and at various chapter meetings. By and large, these are groups of planned and legacy giving officers. These folks are not afraid to talk to donors about death and donors leaving gifts to charities in their wills. During the presentations, where I often co-present with a planned giving analytics consultant, we delve into how to use their own database to identify potential donors for their planned giving programs. This part is very well received, and in their comfort zone. But then, imagine their surprise when they see that a “major giving researcher” can not only help them better identify, solicit, and value their planned giving prospects but also convince them to use a donor-centered model and to determine the best blended gift for their organization. Yes! That would mean they would have to swerve into the scary major giving discussion lane too! But what is great about exploring this area with planned giving professionals is that blended gifts require a long-term relationship between the donor and the organization, and this they understand, and is an area in which they excel.
Let me give you a quick case study. I was working with a human services organization a few years ago that had very robust annual and event programs. While some of their annual donors had been identified by the research team as potential major giving prospects, the development directors were reluctant to remove these individuals from the annual and event programs because they might not make their bottom line for those areas! That “siloing” and mindset deserves an entirely separate blog of course! But, after some nudging and coaching, the development directors were asked to ask their donors how they wanted to give.
In one case, a loyal annual donor and gala attendee who had been flagged as a potential major giving (and planned giving) prospect was asked how he wanted to give, and he said that he and his wife wanted to name a building! The development director was flabbergasted and didn’t quite know what to do. Once the naming amount of the building was determined, the donors (undaunted by the amount) and the development director worked out a beautifully blended gift: one-half of the total amount would be a major gift; one-quarter of the total amount would be a planned gift in their will; and, one quarter would be from a number of hosted events at the donors’ home over the next five years. How’s that for a blended gift?! And, just as important, the donor would continue to give annually and support the gala. Let’s just say, that development director was on board from that moment on.
So, given the opportunity, the donors a) weren’t aware they had to “fit into” any one giving program; and, b) raised their own sights, in addition to that of the development team in that region.
Research development professionals have a large number of tools where we can value a donor’s future giving as well as their current giving. In addition, it is beneficial for researchers to be able to flag a potential planned donor while doing research either intentionally through data mining, or inadvertently, while doing research on a major giving or annual prospect. For a potential planned giving donor, you have to ask:
While age (mostly older individuals) has certainly been a factor in traditional planned giving models, a blended giving model requires looking at potential donors from all age segments.
So, how does research development work with the idea of integrated/blended gift prospects and “Personal Gift Officers”?
About the author: Tracey Church is the Principle Research Consultant at Tracey Church & Associates. Tracey has been a professional researcher in the not-for-profit sector for over 20 years and has worked with over 400 clients in the fields of health care, education, social services, arts, and the environment. In October 2018, Tracey was awarded with the inaugural Apra Canada Excellence in Prospect Research Award at Apra Canada’s national conference.