Following a link from Jeremy Gregg, at Raiser's Raiser, I have been looking at PlannedGiving.com, Planngiving.com/pg, and VirtualGiving.com, produced by the same experienced team of planned giving professionals. In a way, they offer all you need to get into planned giving as a nonprofit in a big way, including a gift acceptance manual, marketing support, and your own website, equipped with helpful information and calculators. They work with places like Yale, Penn, Oxford, Red Cross, World Vision, and many more. Yet, I came away more depressed than impressed. The tone struck me as a sales shtick, even the tone of direct sales, as in junk in your mailbox. What we have here is what we in financial services call "package selling," or "transactional selling," or rudimentary needs selling. We begin from the assumption that a planned gift is right for the donors we have targeted, that we are the right recipient, and then surround or bombard or solicit the potential donor with the means to the end of freeing up a gift in one of several forms: bequest, gift annuity, charitable remainder trust, and so on. What is depressing is that nothing on these state of the art sites that I could see speaks of the donor's own life, goals, dreams, aspirations. Nothing acknowledges that the donor gives to many organizations, and pursues many motives in setting up a living and death time plan. No mention that I could see of advisors. Rather, sadly, this stuff is all "pitch and put." You pitch and then answer objections or pivot to another sales opportunity. Yes, this work in life insurance sales, in mutual fund sales, in the sale or placement of planned gifts, but it is the process used by the masses of salespeople, not the really successful ones. No matter how long you have done it, no matter how many degrees you have, no matter how much money you extract, this kind of selling is a net drain on the life energy of all concerned. It is wearisome. It leads to burnout . It is a form of emotional labor that leaves the product pusher feeling flat and sometimes despairing.
In financial services at the high end of the market we know it is all about the client. That means connecting with clients in a meaningful way, and letting go of one's own agenda long enough to establish a bond based on trust, mutual understanding, and shared passions. What you need to be an expert in is not the arcana of tools, techniques and tactics (this knowledge is taken for granted), but in the needs, wants, hopes, dreams, and current situation of your donor-friends. You need to position yourself as a donor advocate and see if you can make your way onto the donor's team of advisors. It is around the table with the advisor that the larger deals are done. If you play "pitch and put" you are going to be shut out. If advisors treat you as an adversary and kill your deals, it is because you are an unwitting menace. "Prescription before diagnosis is malpractice." You can't prescribe a planned gift without knowing the client's balance sheet, income statement, goals, and current legal structures. You can only pitch them and hope no one intervenes in time.
By way of alternative, check out Tracy Gary's Inspired Philanthropy, and the resources, particularly the Appendices, to see how much more uplifting it is to start with the donor as a human being, rather than a wallet. (OK, I am biased, I wrote those Appendices.) Another good book on the subject is Collier's, Wealth in Families. We will all feel better about our work, and do better for our organizations, whether we are advisors or fundraisers when we graduate from working in our silos to working as a team with the good of the donor and the donor's family and the donor's goals and ideals high on our agendas.
Tip: If you are not "an expert," but find yourself in the planned giving role, full or part time, what might you do to get on the advisory team? Consider the possibility that you might be the advocate for the donor's ideals. That role is open. Few teams have that. You discover the donor's ideals because you listen. Few do. Those ideals lead back to your organization, and to your own personal choices in life. They are the common bond.
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