Our family is re-locating this summer. Today, we begin the move from Kingston, Ontario to Regina, Saskatchewan. We'll be in the new home in about three weeks from now. It's one of those monumental moves across the country that will always be talked about in our family.

The reason? After many, many years of studying, writing and teaching, my partner was asked to fulfill his life-long dream of becoming a tenured professor in Regina. It happened at the end of May and the move has happened in a very short time-frame.

My plan is to continue my work in advising charities and donors in Regina and virtually (with some travel) for clients outside of Saskatchewan. 

One of the most interesting things I've been reflecting on about this whole process are some of the non-traditional philanthropic aspects:

Transaction Fees for Charities

The real-estate firm that we contracted in Regina to help us find a home just sent a certificate letting us know that they've made a gift to the Children's Miracle Network in our honour as a thank-you for choosing to work with them. I also learned yesterday that the interest that will be earned by our lawyer's trust account on our purchasing funds will be pooled with other earnings and distributed to charities.

Both make me feel great and were a good added bonus in that they allowed us to share some of the financial profits from the sale with members of our former and future communities. 

The Mitzvah Circle

Isn't moving all about a lot of good deeds? The help and encouragement from families and neighbors, the meals, that last roll of toilet paper that you had to borrow...

We had live and virtual garage sales over the past week and ended up giving away more than half of what we had. It was a nice feeling to be able to share with others, especially people just starting out, and pay-back some small portion of what was given to us. We spent last evening delivering furniture to students without cars. 

I guess it's obvious that some (good) stuff also went to the Salvation Army, which I hope will be helpful for creating good in the community. I learned this winter that it actually costs some charities money to dispose of useless items that are donated and it makes more sense to recycle than donate if the item is damaged beyond use.

Finally, moving also brings people together - the weekend was spent talking for hours with our neighbors just because we were out on the front lawn for two whole days. When we arrive in Regina, I'm sure that it will be much the same.

Keep your fingers crossed for us as we navigate through the boxes and make the transition to our new home in August!

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?

A very popular topic in fundraising circles these days has been the infamous "Millennial Generation" or "Gen Y" and how they are changing the donation game. 

I recently attended a Millennial Donor Summit which was presented as a fully virtual conference. Delegates could interact live with one another and with presenters through video and chat functions. 

Today, AFP dedicated a full newsletter to addressing this very issue.

But, why does it matter and what does it all mean?

There seem to be some unspoken fears about this new generation of donors that the conversation is trying to address:
  • How can/should charities reach out through social media - a tool most of us still don't understand?
  • Will those seemingly detached hoards who float about all day connected to an iPod ever become engaged in their communities?
  • What will happen to us all if they are not as philanthropic as other generations?

What is emerging from this huge conversation is that though millennials like to communicate via online media and that while Google might be the first point of interaction with a non-profit or charity, there is little that differentiates them from donors belonging to an older demographic. 

Millennials also like to be connected with in a personal way, to be engaged and to be given a chance to become passionate, to be involved, to be asked for gifts and to be offered information about the impact of their participation.

From my perspective, now is the right time to be reaching out to members of this new generation of donors and offering opportunities for meaningful involvement and exceptional stewardship. My guest blog post yesterday at The Fundraising Coach website makes the suggestion that we need to start re-thinking the old rule of measuring engagement by donation-dollar values. 

What will this look like when it arrives via text message!

Our most engaged younger donors often fall below the "stewardship radar" because the dollar value of their support can be lower than our wealthiest donors. However, it makes sense to begin investing now in these individuals who are thought-leaders for their own generation if we hope to build a philanthropic culture for the future. 

Nothing new, just a need to take the time to offer a personal touch, to step out from behind your website and say "thanks" or offer an invitation to visit, volunteer, join the board...

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