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.

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