When Is A Prospect Ready To Make A Planned Gift Commitment?

A planned gift commitment can be the most meaningful (and often largest) gift an alumnus may make to your institution. As a professional development officer, the conversations touch on your donor’s own mortality and may range from a simple gift through their will to a complex gift involving multiple investment vehicles and professional advisers. So how do we know when a prospect is receptive to actually making a planned gift commitment?

Major and planned giving officers have relied on mass mailings to donors based on age, lifetime giving, consecutive years of support and other attributes to identify potential planned giving prospects. Some gift officers bring it up in conversations, others avoid it entirely. But in reality most are uncomfortable in these discussions without experience or expert help. Even then, it’s more likely a discussion about a designation in their will, which may not be the best gift for the institution or the donor.

Unfortunately, all of these strategies are based on our timeframes. Mailings go out when we are ready. Gift officers reach out because a prospect is in their portfolio. What if you knew your donors would welcome a planned gift discussion?

  • If we are truly committed to being donor centric, shouldn’t we listen to them?
  • What can we do differently to uncover donors who are truly ready to make a planned gift commitment?
  • In the days of iPhones, cloud software services and social media, are there new tools that point us in the right direction?

Every industry seems to harness technology to identify when the prospect is ready. Why aren’t you? Continue your marketing activities to uncover prospects but also monitor visitors to the institution and planned giving website. The tools exist to identify individual visitors using your planned giving tools. We can know their names, age, level of affinity, points of affinity, capacity and most important of all … we can know if they are ready to consider a planned gift.

Capture Behavioral Engagement (CBE), Capture Higher Ed’s marketing automation for colleges and universities, gives you the tools to identify donors who are ready to act now on a planned gift commitment. Timing these kinds of relationships was front-of-mind when the software was developed. Turns out, one of Capture’s clients has already identified more than a dozen planned giving prospects visiting their planned giving page.

Planned Gift Commitment

Some surprising findings:

  • Almost 50% of visitors to the planned giving site lived out of state.
  • Almost 25% of visitors to the planned giving site were under age 50.

Timing is essential to planned giving. When a donor shows the inclination towards a planned gift, they signal something has changed in their lives. Perhaps it the loss of a loved one, a sudden inheritance, a realization their kids are well off and don’t need an inheritance, sale of a business or that vacation home they spend less and less time at and the kids don’t need or want.

Whatever the case may be, perhaps now is the right time to buy that plane ticket and visit that out-of-state prospect researching a gift, or visiting with the alumni under the age of 50 about a legacy gift. Think about it, how much more productive could you be if you let marketing automation put you in front of the right prospects at the right time? I bet your donor relationships would be more meaningful as you help them foster closer ties to the institution and increase their legacy on campus. After all, isn’t that the reason we have chosen this profession, to make a positive difference?

(Vince McElligott is a planned-giving consultant who has worked with development programs at major research and medical universities as well as other non-profit institutions since 1990. He lives in Friendswood, Texas.)