Monday, September 16, 2013

Skipping to the Last Chapter

Our latest survey of PPP members showed that even among the people who are most convinced of the benefits of “planned” giving, one-third have not personally made a planned gift. Half of those who haven’t made a planned gift are over age 50. Since we know that roughly half of Americans die without a will, we suspect that a lot of PPP members who haven’t made charitable plans, haven’t done any planning at all. What’s going on here? Surely people whose work involves encouraging others to plan should be able to say they’ve done it themselves.

Russell James (a professor at Texas Tech University and member of the National Conference on Philanthropic Planning faculty) tells us that bequest decision making is like visualizing the final chapter of your own autobiography. Stories can help people get beyond the natural inclination to avoid thinking about their own death. We’ve noticed, however, the gift planners often tell stories that focus on the financial benefits of a gift, many of which kick in for the donor’s estate—after his death. Or they focus on benefits to charitable programs, which also traditionally require the gift to “mature.”

These donor stories are borrowed from the websites of two nonprofit organizations (donors’ names and a few details have been changed). If you’re one of the PPP members who hasn’t made your own planned gift, which story is more likely to motivate you?
When Mrs. Sara Green first met with her Regional Director and the Vice President of Planned Giving, almost ten years ago to discuss a gift to the Institute, she considered supporting ongoing areas of research, particularly in health-related fields. Sara, though interested in these projects, had rather unconventional interests. She wanted to support research for which scientists struggled to find funds—scientists whose ideas and dreams hadn’t a prayer of receiving financial support because they boldly explored the far frontiers of science and technology, without the promise of immediate, marketable, or commercial application. She wanted to honor the Institute’s tradition of unfettered scientific inquiry.
And so the idea of the Discovery Endowment Fund was born. Discovery Endowment Funds provide scientists with "dream gifts" to pursue their curiosity-driven interests to the fullest. Sara has created the John and Sara Green Discovery Endowment Fund. She is proud that the Fund will honor her late husband, while supporting such forward-looking, imaginative, and innovative research….
According to Sara, "Born on the eve of World War II, my most cherished hope and fondest dream has always been of world peace. Through its world-class basic scientific research, reaching to man’s unknown future horizons, the Institute can and will have a singularly profound effect on humanity. By providing ways to feed the hungry, improve health and the quality of living, world conflict will be reduced, and peace in our lifetime can remain our fervent prayer. To realize and fund its future miracles, I call upon people of all faiths—worldwide—who may read, see, or hear my words…The world needs this Institute."
Or this…?
Peter Reid understands better than most the value of education. It was education, made possible by his family's sacrifices and his own hard work, that took him from a poor village to a successful career. He also credits his wife for supporting him.
Peter scaled back to part-time work in 1986 to manage their investments and in 1990 retired completely. He has structured some of their retirement assets, including an IRA, to benefit the University. He says, "An IRA is a smart way to help the University since it's such a highly taxed asset if given to heirs."
He has also made the University the sole beneficiary of a whole life insurance policy. And he has two other policies designated primarily for their heirs. Should there be a claim, however, a portion would support two endowed funds established in his and his wife’s name: a fellowship and a scholarship benefiting students in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. In addition, the Reid family makes annual gifts to provide current scholarships and fellowships and to build their endowments.
At the National Conference on Philanthropic Planning, you’ll have at least two chances to consider the way you tell your donors’ or clients’ stories. Opening keynoter Kevin Kling will demonstrate the emotional impact that stories can deliver. And Elissa Leif will help you capture stories effectively on video. What’s the most effective donor story that you’ve told, or heard? What motivated you to make your own planned gift?

About Barbara Yeager

Barbara Yeager is the director of operations for PPP. She has worked for the organization since 1991. Her responsibilities include managing research projects for the national organization and for councils, managing education and networking programs for the National Conference on Philanthropic Planning, the Council Conversations series, and the Leadership Institute. She moderates groups in the PPP e-community and works with writers to develop original content for publication by PPP. Barbara has a master’s degree in library and information science and worked as a public librarian and as a technical writer and systems analyst before joining the PPP staff. In her community, she is a Girl Scout leader, a community gardener and volunteers as a costumer for community theater groups. 

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