Integrated Giving: Don’t Forget – You Are the Integrated Giving Expert on Your Team!

Guest post by Tracey Church


The Integrated/Blended Giving Approach

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!).

Integrated Giving: Planned Giving, Annual Giving, Major Giving

Working to Break the Current Models

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.


The Proof is in the (Blended) Pudding: A Quick Case Study

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.


What’s a Little Different about including Planned Giving Identification and Research?

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:

  • Does that donor own long-term assets?
  • Does that donor have no, or few, heirs?
  • Is the donor a widow/widower?
  • Is the donor fiscally conservative?
  • Is the donor a “frequent faithful” annual donor?
  • Is the donor loyal to your cause?


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.


Working in a Blended Gift Shop

So, how does research development work with the idea of integrated/blended gift prospects and “Personal Gift Officers”?

  • Look for those donors who can do outright and deferred gifts.
  • Look for those donors who can do gifts from income and assets.
  • Include the entire family in the research and solicitation – remember, the next generation will be the recipients of a huge turnover of wealth from the boomer generation.
  • These will be long-term relationships, so research needs to keep on top of these donors and update the Personal Gift Officers if circumstances change.
  • Discard the traditional donor pyramid as annual donors not only feed the major giving pipeline but the long-term frequent faithful annual donors may actually leap over the major giving area right into the planned giving area upon their death – remember, anyone can make a planned gift!
  • Don’t take any donors out of one program and put them into another. If a donor is working closely with a Personal Gift Officer and doesn’t want to receive annual giving solicitation mailings, he/she will tell them!
  • Personal Gift Officers must understand both current and deferred gift options.
  • Personal Gift Officers must be compensated for current year gifts, pledges, and gift expectancy amounts.
  • Researchers can help to better valuate planned gift expectancies for Personal Gift Officers by looking at the donor’s assets. A lot of Personal Gift Officers currently base their expectancy numbers on the industry average or the organizational average as they haven’t researched a planned donor’s personal wealth and aren’t aware of the tools we use and the expertise we can provide.


Let’s be the Ones to Roll out the New Model

  • Dare I say, do a Lunch and Learn? But yes, that’s one place to start. Introduce your development teams to the concept of blended research, solicitation, and giving and remember to emphasize, this is donor-centered
  • Don’t be afraid to do a pilot project! Get one development officer “on board” who is comfortable with blended research and asks and acquire that champion. 
  • Educate yourself! Go to AFP and Gift Planners professional development sessions (as well as annual and data science sessions) and see what everyone is doing and where it can overlap for the best gift for your organization.


Some more sources for you:

  • An Inside Look at Three Popular Planned Gift Types, by Michael Quevli and Katherine Swank. APRA Connections 2015, Q3 Issue 15, pp. 28-29.
  • Are You Ready to Start a Planned Giving Program?, by Katherine Swank. Fundraising Well, June 2008.
  • Prospect Research in Canada: An Essential Guide for Researchers and Fundraisers, by Tracey Church and Liz Rejman (editors), Civil Sector Press, 2016.
  • Prospect Research for Planned Giving, by Verna Chen. APRA-Canada Webinar, April 15, 2015.
  • Two Sides of the Same Coin: The benefits of integrating planned and outright giving, by Ian M. Fraser and Tom Yates. Healthcare Philanthropy Journal, Fall 2015. pp. 10-16.



Guest author Tracey Church 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.






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