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I'm working on a presentation for early June to a mix of fundraisers and stewardship folks about Planned Giving.

It led me to reflect a bit on what holds many people back from even initiating a conversation about bequests with their donors.

I realized that when many of us think of talking to someone about whether their money might go to the cause we represent when they die, this (photo on right) is what we think we have to break through.

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Good news is that more often than not, once the question has been asked, "I'd like to speak to you about your thoughts around considering a charitable bequest to (name of organization), would you be open to that?"

This image is usually more like what we run into once the door is open.

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Richard Radcliffe
 often speaks about how asking for a planned gift is most like a marriage proposal. It's personal, it's relational, it's between people who know each other and it's life-giving for both parties involved.

The "legacy gift" conversation is not about death, hellfire and taxes...it's more like a marriage proposal: an entrance into a life-giving partnership.

Ask Better? Give Smarter?

Don't abandon hope! Look for opportunities to open the conversation about charitable bequests. Approaching people who already have a close relationship with your cause are likely going to be open to the conversation.

As a donor, look for charities that are respectful and personal in their communications with you. Feel free to open the conversation yourself if you haven't been approached. Never give if you feel pressured and always check in with your lawyer and family first. Good professional fundraisers will not create an uncomfortable situation if you decide after exploration that the idea is not for you or if your plans change in future for any reason.
 
 
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While this blog typically focuses on the personal or marketing side of fundraising and philanthropy, I found a very helpful article yesterday that addresses some of the technical planning and administrative aspects around charitable bequests.

Though it does cover more of the technical side, I found it fairly easy to follow and full of useful information for donors and for charities.


I'd also like to make a personal, unsolicited reccomendation of the Charities and Not-for-Profit Division within the Miller Thomson law firm. If you are not already a subscriber, you might want to get on their Charities Update emailing list, which is how this article found me.
 
I've worked with a number of the lawyers at this firm and what stands out about them is how much they give in terms of free educational information - newsletters, conference presentations, informal conversations - to me their investment in helping fundraisers is a sign of their commitment to the charitable sector in Canada.

Thanks  @CharityLawCan @EstatesLaw @SusanManwaring and the rest of the gang at @MTCharity !

Practical Considerations When Making a Charitable Gift by Will
Karen L. Weslowski, Vancouver

(Reprinted with permission from the June 2012 Miller Thomson Charities and Not-for-Profit Newsletter)

A legacy can be created by leaving all or a portion of a person’s estate to charity.  Such a gift can reflect a testator’s personal values and beliefs while making a difference in the lives of others.  However, in order to ensure that the charitable gift is realized, there are some things for a testator to consider before leaving an estate gift to charity.  Once that gift is made, charities may wish to know what steps they must take to protect that gift. 


The Requirement for a Proper Will


Without a proper Will, a person’s estate will pass on intestacy to their next of kin. However, before a person can make an estate gift to charity, their Will must make some provision for their dependants, if any. 

In British Columbia, dependants include a testator’s spouse, minor children and, in most instances, adult children, even if they are financially independent.  In most other Canadian provinces, the category of dependants is not as broad and includes spouses, minor children and adult children only if incapable.  If a testator’s Will does not make adequate provision for these people, there is legislation in most provinces which permits dependants to commence litigation challenging the Will. 


Litigation often results when family members are not informed about a testator’s intention to leave a charitable bequest.  Testators should tell their family about their wish to leave an estate gift to charity.  Although the charity has a duty to protect the gift, charities may be reluctant to engage in acrimonious and expensive litigation to do so. 


The Will needs to be very specific about which charity the testators wish to benefit.  For example, if the Will simply provides a bequest to the “diabetes society”, it may be challenged on the basis that the identity of the charity is unclear.  This is due to the fact that there are several charities associated with diabetes.  Even if the Will is not challenged, a court application may still be required to figure out which charity the testator intended to benefit.  This will cost the testator’s estate money that could otherwise go to the charity and the estate beneficiaries. 


The Charities’ Duty to Protect a Charitable Gift


Charities may become involved in estate litigation by virtue of being a beneficiary of an estate.  Common issues that involve a charity are challenges to the Will, applications for interpretation of the Will and passing of the executor’s accounts. 


Charities are not always sure what role, if any, they may have in estate litigation.  As a beneficiary of an estate, a charity is entitled to notice of any estate proceedings which may affect its entitlement or require its consent.  Charities are also entitled (or, in some instances, may be required) to fully participate in the litigation, including settlement of the proceedings.


Charities must ensure that their interests are protected under a Will and by the person administering the estate.  Charities must take reasonable steps to ensure that a testator’s gift is realized.  This includes monitoring the administration of the estate and making inquiries of the estate solicitor or executor as to the status of the estate.  If necessary, it may also include taking active steps in any litigation to protect their interest in the estate. 



The need to defend a donor’s charitable gift by becoming involved in litigation can affect the charity’s image.  In a fight with disinherited family members, the charity may be perceived as “greedy”. Charities generally want to maintain a positive public image. 

This consideration may affect how a charity conducts itself in litigation and cause it to be less assertive in defending a testator’s gift.  Although charities have an obligation to defend the donor’s charitable gift, it may not be practical to do so where the amount of the gift is small relative to the cost of litigation.  Charities may choose to decline a bequest where the public relations issues resulting from litigation would adversely affect the charity disproportionately to the value of the bequest. 



Conclusion


Testators should strive for open communication with their dependants as to their intention to leave a gift to charity.  This can assist in ensuring that their intended gift is realized and reduce the potential for litigation after the testator’s death. Charities must recognize their duty in protecting charitable gifts and take appropriate steps to that end.



Yep, this one needs a "just in case" disclaimer to let you know that this blog post should not be taken as legal advice. Christina Attard is NOT qualified as a lawyer or financial advisor and information on this website does not constitute advice - please consult with a qualified advisor before proceeding with any legal or financial course of action.
 
 
Today was a great day for people like me. 

It all started with a long standing Telemiracle fundraising campaign on TV here in Saskatchewan, Canada. It had all the elements you could ask for from high-drama philanthropy - emotional stories, compelling appeals and amazing corporate participation with just under $1 Million donated by two companies for a total of $5.9 Million raised in just two days. For most of us fundraising professionals, those results would indeed feel like a miracle!

Today, the campaign made front-page news. But this year, it was because of one farmer's legacy gift - a bequest in the amount of $1.46 Million presented by his son and daughter-in-law. For legacy gift planning evangelists like myself, it was a dream come true to see the positive power of one person's generosity grabbing the attention of so many.  

I think practically the whole province was celebrating today! But there's a bit of a dark side to it too... I also heard so many comments today about how this must have been an unusually wealthy person, how it's nice that this happened, but we could never expect to do something like this ourselves, about how the children must feel to have so much taken away from them... 

Frankly, this type of thinking makes me go crazy! 

Why? Because the beauty of charitable bequests is that a planned gift is well within the scope of what most of us could do for our communities based on our financial capacity. It's not about disinheriting the kids and it's not about being a wealthy, flashy philanthropist. It's simply about being responsible about what we've been lucky enough to receive in life and considering how that could be shared once our own needs and those of our families/friends have been met. That's what this particular farmer did and he brought joy to many hundreds of thousands of people today as a result. 

Today was also my own lucky day. I had the opportunity and the great pleasure of standing up on my little soap box to speak to Saskatchewan about my passion for legacy giving on the radio thanks to Craig Lederhouse on CBC Saskatchewan's Afternoon Edition. 

The interview is available online here.

Craig asked me on-air how rich one must be before considering philanthropy. It surprised me, but the story of a homeless man who came to the (financial) aid of one woman who had always stopped to greet him on the street was the first thing to come to mind. That news story can be found here.


Ask Better?

Craig was very interested in how fundraisers open the conversation about a legacy gift and I hope my comments in the interview will give some insight into that process. The thing to remember as a fundraiser is that connection, relationship, involvement with the charity were the main factors behind the bequest that made the news today - not tax, not ultra-high-net-wealth, not naming rights.

Give Smarter?

It's about joy. It's about how you feel when a child or grandchild opens a gift from you. When you know that though your contribution may be small, you are changing the world for the better. Really thinking deeply about whether there is an organization you care deeply enough about to make part of your family and include in your will. There is joy and gladness there for you and for so many others who will remember you by your kindness. 

Love to hear your thoughts!
 
 
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Skip the huge print-out with powerpoint slides, how about a postcard? Destination? More Information!

Today, I presented as part of an exceptional panel of professional advisors in philanthropy at the Canadian Association of Gift Planners, South Saskatchewan chapter in Regina. ("Exceptional" here categorizes my colleagues!)

We looked at Financial Planning, Estate Planning, Investment Management and Gift Planning in light of the current turbulent economic situation.

The take-aways? 

Donors are getting smarter as investors in the social-profit industry. They want their advisors to be knowledgeable about the topic and to discuss giving with them. 

The giving discussion, whether it be with the estate planner or the development officer has to be values-based and put the donor-client at the centre. The economic climate means that fewer Canadians are giving, though the ones that are engaged are giving larger sums - this is the time to start providing them with greater opportunities to become partners in charitable missions rather than expecting they participate as checking accounts for non-profit  projects

Everyone involved in the process of managing and distributing wealth is responsible for ensuring that the right questions are being asked - both when it comes to the client's needs and when it comes to understanding what it means to invest for oneself, to invest for others and to invest in others.

None of this is particularly novel. It's been said in CAGP and AFP circles in Canada for years; it's the thrust of so many advisory practices and blogs and it's what drives so many of the top third-sector professionals. 

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What has changed, in my view, is that the timing to adjust how we market as fundraisers and re-align our values has become more urgent. 





To summarize one comment from the audience: How do we advise clients when charities seem to proliferate so quickly, with so little regulation from CRA, and with insufficient information provided to help the public understand what differentiates one from another?

The third-sector is a free-market economy - there is no reason that the charity that exists today will necessarily exist tomorrow. These aren't permanent government programs or ministries. 

In a tighter giving market, the organizations who rise to the occasion and differentiate themselves by meeting the public's demands for transparency, accountability and a vision for a better future will thrive and those who do not respond to the challenge, will not. 

This is a good thing. 

As they say in Latin, O Felix Culpa! that the economic downturn has brought about an opportunity for Canadian charities to begin innovating how they reach out to the public for support - I see amazing examples of organizations who get it right each day and it inspires me to keep working to help charities ask better and donors give smarter!

If you are looking for more information about the state of giving in North America, Gift Planning and the new culture of philanthropy, check out my new web-resource page created specifically for this event here.


If you were at the talk (or even if you weren't present) your comments here are quite welcome and I hope you'll consider continuing the conversation on this space!

 
 

On November 16th, the Canadian Association of Gift Planners for South Saskatchewan is hosting a panel discussion for anyone who serves (or wants to understand) clients and their gift planning needs in a professional capacity. 

The group will be aiming to give a 360 degree view of working with clients from a legal, fundraising, insurance and investment perspective with a view to the volatility of today's markets.

I'm excited to be presenting from the perspective of a gift planner working on the charity side. 

Hope you'll be able to join us!

Registration info can be found here.
 
 

Great fundraising involves exceptional planning 

and an artistic execution
Swiss architect Le Corbusier Venice, 1952


Today, I would like to share two great pieces that came across my desk in the past week. One is about capital campaigns and the other is about consultants to charity - since a lot of charities hire consultants to lead them through the campaign process, these seemed like a good fit.

The 10 Pillars of Great Relations Between Charities and Consultants

Working on a campaign together is not a short-haul project. It's a relationship for everyone involved and like all other relationships, communication and respect have to be at the heart of making it work. The Agents of Good have taken a solid stab at identifying the elements that need to be in place for everyone to feel satisfied.

I probably feel most strongly about the need for conversation and I would suggest that anyone looking to hire a consultant should feel that they are bringing on a person that they can have honest and frank (and sometimes difficult) conversations with.

Running a Successful Capital Campaign

This article was a real keeper because it gives a good overview of the key elements that need to be in place when approaching a capital campaign. I especially agreed with this point:

In the 90s people gave to institutions, in the early 2000s, they gave to projects.

Today, it’s about impact. So when positioning your story, make sure you indicate how your project will make a difference in the community it’s meant to serve.


Much of the rest of what was suggested can be summarized to say that successful capital campaigns involve heaps of strategic planning. Do people want to give, why should they give, who to ask, when to ask, what to ask for, how to say thanks...these are the big questions that come first. It's why communication with your consultant is so important - getting through the process of asking and answering these questions involves a lot of conversations and a realistic set of expectations on both sides. 

We don't need Planned Gifts, it's a capital campaign...

Another question that I think belongs in any capital campaign is about "what happens in ten years from now? How does the financial future of this organization look? What can we be doing now in this campaign to create that reality?"

It's where I think legacy gift planning has a place in current dollar campaigns. 

Those bequest commitments may not do much in terms of meeting current needs, but when the relationship building happens now (and preferably seamlessly with the campaign fundraising), there is a better chance that sustainable support for the charity will be in place down the road.

The debate about how to count and recognize legacy gifts is a big one in Canada, but I think the important thing is to open the door to those opportunities as much as possible even during campaigns - your donors are thinking about their relationship and giving in a comprehensive way, why not present asks in the same way?

What are your thoughts?
 
 

Do you get too much mail from charities each year asking for money? 

Not me - I love every piece because of how much I learn from them all! 

Since a big part of my work revolves around creating marketing and solicitation pieces for fundraising campaigns, I want to share a bit about what gets me excited.

In short, I love the ones that make me feel something. 

What are the emotions? 
Connectedness, urgency, passion, the knowledge that MY GIFT is crucial both to me personally and to those whom it will aid. 

(ok, I secretly like postage-paid envelopes so I can respond right away!)

I won't lie and tell you that I got onto this passionate feeling thing on my own. This is where I first got my inspiration.

Here is my perspective on what makes for great charity marketing:


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 Let's talk about ME

This week, I saw a capital campaign brochure that used the word "we/our" 7 times in the main, 3 sentence long, "case for support" paragraph. 

The brochure showed me a lot of giving charts. It also had a lot of detailed tax-related info.

I felt nothing.

There was no story about me. It didn't address the question: "here's how we're a part of your/others' life now and with/without my gift/partnership, here's what's possible for others and for me."

I look for solicitations that tell me about all the great things that the charity does, how it changes lives and how participating will change my life / affect my feelings (positively!). 

The truth is that most charities, even boring sounding ones, do really make life better - the stories are there, but they need to be told as the lead story before any asking happens.


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There are 12 steps to hand washing?

WHY is more important than HOW

Though I specialize in tax-smart gift planning, I believe in limiting tax planning info in a general brochure. 

The most important thing that has to be communicated is the "why" of giving and not the "how to give."

Let's step into the shoes of our donors and imagine how we'd like them to think about giving:

"Yep, I finally decided to start supporting hungry kids in my community because I realized that my tax credit rate was 44% after the first $200 of giving and I just wanted to keep every dollar out of the hands of that wretched CRA!"

OR

"Well, I realized that a lot of the kids that Feed the Kids was helping could be the friends of my own kids at school and so I decided I could help out and feel good about supporting families like ours in my own community!"

So really think about the space that's being dedicated to explaining tax implications and limit it to a very brief, high-level invite to talk more about what might be possible. 

At the same time, I feel reassured when I see a charitable registration number included and perhaps a short note mentioning that gifts are eligible for a donation receipt as per CRA regulations.


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Don't bite off more than you can chew!

Many fundraising pieces include a full menu listing of 8-10 gift planning options.

When's the last time your typical small, urban charity thought they might have a use for ecologically sensitive property? 


Yep, it may be a gift planning option, but there's no need to list all of them unless the charity has the capacity or alignment of mission to accept such gifts. 

Less is often more. It's important to open the door in marketing material to gift planning options, but I think the menu should be limited to bequests - and maybe insurance, RRSPs, securities - basically, the most common options. 

Ask Better, Give Smarter

I love this scene from the Mad Men series where ad exec, Don Draper, literally reinvents the wheel for Kodak by introducing a campaign for the Carousel slide projector. 

There's even an engrossing story to be told about something as boring as a slide projector! 

The sales pitch is 100% about me and what I am going to feel personally when I use this product. Draper drives it home by telling an emotional story about his own life through the slide show.

Ask better by telling the story of your charity and give smarter by looking for charities that share why your individual participation matters! If we can get passionate together, great things are possible!

"Create a sentimental bond with the product...
It's not the wheel, it's the carousel"

 
 
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Is it nice and hot and sunny where you are? Chances are pretty good that your donors are also enjoying the summer weather and not giving too much thought to charitable bequest planning right now.

As with many things, I found that gift planning had high and low seasons through the year with mid-July to the end of August and mid-November to January being the two times when bequests just weren't top of mind for people.

This being said, two of the best times of the year to talk about bequest planning are September and January. Making a will can often fall into that category of "New Year's Resolution" and both of these times are a "new" time of year when people are feeling re-energized and interested in tackling administrative projects.

If you are a development professional, this is a great time to organize some strategies that will put your charity top-of-mind when the high-season returns in the fall. This is also a good time to start thinking about program strategies for January as well.

Why not try:
  • Gathering your list of individuals who have expressed an interest in some way from the past 12 months. Put the list by your phone and resolve to spend at least one hour per day in September on the phone. By providing a reminder and forwarding any further information that they may require right at the start of September, there will be lots of time for them to get in touch with the rest of their advisory team and complete their gift before the hectic holiday season gets started
  • Writing a short direct mail piece about bequest giving to arrive around the first week of September. No need to send it to your full mailing list, you can limit it to a small handful of loyal donors. Mention in the letter that you will be following up by phone and be sure to make the calls
  • Choose a date toward the end of September and set aside a block of time to meet face-to-face with donors to discuss gift planning - can be either local, travel or an event. By planning this now, you will have a chance to send out a letter or invitation card early in the season. After a busy summer of travel and with kids returning to school, people tend to stay closer to home around this time of year and often aren't as tied up with social events as they will be come November and December
  • Design and send out a small note sheet with a to-do list for the new year. Include consulting with your estate planner and leave the rest of the lines blank for the person to fill in themselves. Print some information about your charity and estate planning tips including charitable giving on the back
What if you don't have a dedicated gift planning person on your team? Any of these strategies can be sized up or sized down to fit into a work flow. If you wear all of the "hats" in your organization, you might limit yourself to focusing on your top 5 most interested potential donors. If your time is 100% dedicated to gift planning, you might want to think of creating a larger appeal for January based on the "New Year's Resolution" theme.

Anything else that you would suggest? Any estate planners out there willing to share when their high and low seasons fall?

 
 
So many good articles and posts have passed by on my desk today that I thought I would share some of the best ones.


Giving from the Heart

Sometimes, affordability is a big question we have to ask ourselves as donors when contemplating a gift to charity. The answer always seems to come from a place where we balance our human passions and our material needs in some magical dance to come up with a dollar figure that feels comfortable.

I saw this astounding article today about a homeless man who is supporting a single mother and her child after she experienced a job loss. For me, it was proof that when we decide to help others, the motivating factor has more to do with our hearts and our desire to help than our actual financial ability.

I criticize myself frequently because my giving is rarely a "stretch" for my family financially and this story is going to force me to ask more serious questions about whether I can do more to help others. As a fundraiser, it reminds me that reaching my supporters in a way that creates passion in their hearts is the number one priority.

Please and Thank You

I participated last week in a twitter conference called Small Non-Profit Chat (#smNPchat) on Donor Accountability. A good summary of the conversation appeared here. Transparency and accountability were strongly linked with the idea of stewardship; it is important to share information about the impact of each donor's investment in your organization and that engagement has to continue beyond simply asking and move toward creating a "stakeholder" role for supporters.

Today, Michael Rosen posted some great thoughts on stewardship in relation to legacy gifts that really reinforce the notion that even in lean financial times, charities and non-profits cannot afford to neglect that personal thank-you.

Fortune Telling for Fundraisers?

Sometimes in the rush to ensure that your charity can meet current operating needs, the idea of investing in a Gift Planning program to raise future gifts may seem foolhardy. The question about expected ROI is a natural one for any board member or director being asked to consider investing in this type of program.

In my view, the answer is sort of like reading into a crystal ball. If your organization has a pretty good track record of legacies coming in and a reasonably sized list of those who have committed gifts (I'm talking at least 15-20 names), then it might be possible to make some good guesses and assume that moving from a passive to an active program will improve the situation. Harder to do without data or  track record at all.

The better question, from my perspective, is not about ROI but on possible opportunity loss. Good Works Co. in Ottawa is a full-service charity consultancy that frequently conducts polls to assess interest and capacity among Canadians for making legacy gifts. Their 2010 Legacy Poll results are available here and here.

There has been much concern during the economic downturn about falling donation revenue across North America. What these studies show is a trend that mirrors the early 1940s where current giving revenue suffered, but legacy gifts continued to increase. More importantly, the studies illustrate that the time is right to talk to Canadians about charitable bequests and that the potential funds available for charities are staggering.

The good news here is that sometimes, simply learning how to broach the subject is all you need...

Look forward to giving more, becoming more thankful and offering new opportunities for others to help together with you!
 
 
Lately, a question that I receive from my colleagues in the charity sector has to do with technical gift planning knowledge.

Because I have completed the Advanced Canadian Gift Planning course and worked in two fairly large shops, some colleagues have wondered whether developing their knowledge of technical gift planning might help them to build momentum for the (typically small) program at their charity.

While a technical expertise does serve me well in working with financial and estate advisors to develop more creative philanthropic strategies, the truth is that in Canada, the "bread and butter" of gift planning programs still lies in simple bequest gifts. 

In my experience, the key to increasing overall program engagement for a charity had a lot more to do with marketing the opportunity to make a bequest gift than the ability to suggest more complex donation scenarios. 

For example, the most complicated life insurance gift that I'd ever seen had a face value of about 1 million dollars and took more than a year to arrange. In comparison, a new direct mail / telethon strategy to advertise bequests garnered over 7 million dollars in expected gifts in its first year with a repeat of that result in the second year and created a huge pool of interested supporters.

If you find yourself frequently speaking with donor's advisors and working on several complex strategies annually, then it might be time to look at deepening your technical knowledge. Otherwise, consider focusing your energy on simple marketing strategies, like direct mail, that help you to identify the supporters that can make a straightforward charitable bequest.


 

© 2011-2012 Christina Attard. All Rights Reserved