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Is Your Nonprofit Walking Away From Money?

by Randy Schackmann

The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University recently published the December 2000 Philanthropic Index, a bi-annual report on giving in America. One of the findings looks forward to midyear 2001 as it states, "six months from now the most successful (fundraising) techniques will be major gifts, foundation gifts and planned giving" (boldface emphasis mine).

Last summer the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that overall charitable giving in 1999 rose 6%. During the same calendar year the Chronicle said income from planned giving rose 14%.

A survey of 70 homeless shelters and missions in the U.S. -- all of them nonprofit organizations with budgets between $500,000 and $3,500,000 per year -- was conducted during the spring of 2000. The average income received from planned giving equaled barely 5% of their annual budgets, and only 10% of the organizations claimed to be doing any significant fundraising in this arena.

Is your nonprofit walking away from money?

It is an unquestioned fact that the largest wealth transfer in the history of mankind is taking place right now. This phenomenon will continue for another couple of decades. One financial planner says that right now there is over $2,700,000,000 (yes, that's trillion dollars!) in private, vested pension funds in America. And that amount is only a small part of what will pass during this massive wealth transfer.

Is your nonprofit walking away from money?

Universities, hospitals, foundations, and large nonprofits are active in planned giving. Why aren't midsize and smaller organizations doing more to cultivate and solicit planned gifts? Three answers are most often given.

  • We mean to, but we're too busy with everything else.
  • We need training to equip ourselves.
  • We just don't have the resources.

At some level, all of these reasons are valid; but based on the current status of giving in America, you can't let any more time pass without working on planned giving. To do so is walking away from money; and worse, every other U.S. charity (over 600,000 of them) also knows about this wealth transfer. If you are not helping your supporters to give through their estates and with planned gifts - someone else will. And you may lose out on their gift completely.

So what should you do to capitalize on the boom in planned giving?

First, get motivated and make an organizational decision to pursue planned gifts. Even a small start is much better than none. Consider a board and staff strategic planning retreat or meeting focused on this idea.

Second, get some basic training. You don't have to be an expert, but you do need some good fundamentals. Spend a little time and effort to learn the basics and then get started.

Finally, select some appropriate resources to assist in identifying and cultivating prospects. Things like donor screening overlays, educational brochures, and basic marketing materials can be worth their weight in gold.

The most important thing you can do is summed up by the old advertising slogan made famous by Nike: "JUST DO IT." I know a development director who once hung an old tennis shoe in his office to serve as a constant motto reminder. It was his way of keeping in front of his organization and himself that this has to be done, or else. Like him, we must all understood that failure to work at bringing in planned gifts means someone else is going to get your organization's gifts.


About the Author:

Randy B. Schackmann
Account Supervisor - Grizzard, Los Angeles

Schackmann joined Grizzard in 1999 bringing with him over two decades of nonprofit fundraising and management experience. His work includes helping lead a national account team servicing over 70 clients throughout the United States.

His background includes extensive training and experience in donor acquisition and cultivation; major and planned gifts; board development; and nonprofit management. He has helped establish planned giving programs for several organizations while helping to raise millions of dollars in current and deferred gifts. Presently, he also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Azusa Pacific University's School of Management and Business teaching graduate classes in nonprofit organization and fundraising.

Visit Grizzard's web sites at and

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