One of the readers of this blog reminded me today of what I considered the best small charity planned giving effort story. It is simple and worth thinking about if you are trying to get a planned giving program going at a smaller place.
Early in my consulting work for United Jewish Communities, I visited with a group of smaller Jewish charities in the Catskills area for an open discussion about starting planned giving programs.
I was the guest speaker and didn't expect to be impressed by the planned giving efforts they were discussing.
But, one of the participants was from a synagogue that had made a consistent effort and to my surprise, it dawned on me how successful they were.
What was this great program? It was a simple "Tree of Life" effort that focused on estate commitments. What is so special about that?
Well, their board went through the pains of developing a plan to seek deferred commitments. They gave those who made bequest/estate plan commitments significant recognition in their lobby (on the brass leaves to the tree). They created an annual event with promotion within their community celebrating the new members to their Tree of Life campaign.
Bottom line: they created an ongoing program to seek these types of commitments (nothing complex) that worked year in and year out. Their volunteer accountants had some idea of the potential sizes of many of the gifts so their board had an idea of what the pipeline might be. They added charitable bequest planning to the culture and activities of the institution and their participation rate was very high.
That is all you need. Almost every synagogue I have seen has a Tree of Life but they never have anything to do with encouraging bequest commitments (except this one, of course). Sadly, I have watched as older members of various synagogues pass away in my community and never hear about bequests.
It takes more foresight than you think for a small, older institution make a long term commitment to encouraging estate plan commitments. That one in the Catskills told me that they had about half a million in expectancies and an unknown dollar amount, probably greater than the known amounts. They basically ensured their future by giving up a bit of today.
It is just a matter of getting it on the agenda and sticking to it.