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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!

 
 

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?

 
 
This morning, I heard a radio ad for a local fundraising event. The spot promised a day of free virtual golf at a centre that normally charges for this type of activity. The entry fee was $30 and it was mentioned that each participant would receive a "tax-deductible" receipt for their full $30.

This made me go "hmmm..." for two reasons:

1. My understanding is that under Canadian tax law, the value of any advantage to the donor must be subtracted from the value of the charitable receipt.

Unless the ordinary market value of the activity can be deemed to be of minimal value with respect to the gift amount, I'm not 100% sure that this organization should be issuing a receipt for the full contribution! I also question whether they should be providing tax information in a radio ad?



2. This is the third or fourth time in the past month that I've seen the wording "tax-deductible donation" used in fundraising marketing.

It's a fine hair to split, but for Canadian individuals, charitable donations trigger a "tax-creditable donation receipt." The difference may seem small, but it is important! 

Why?

A tax credit means that regardless of your income, you will receive a standardized percentage of your gift back as a credit on your income tax return.

If it were a "charitable deduction," the rate of reimbursement would be tied to a tax-payers marginal rate for income tax, which in many cases, is lower than the marginal rates for charitable tax credits.


CRA offers this nifty calculator that provides a great illustration of how it all works. 

Recognizing this seemly minute technical difference is also a recognition of Canada's generous and unique encouragement of charitable donations from members of the public.

A Solution?

A great term that I learned at one of the universities I worked with was "tax-smart giving." It gets to the point in your fundraising marketing materials without getting into sticky details. 


(Caveat: I speak as a lay-woman and not a financial or legal professional. Please remember to consult with your own professional advisors.)
 

© 2011-2012 Christina Attard. All Rights Reserved