With so many Americans updating their wills and estate plans, now is a good time for you to make sure you are in good shape to welcome, receive, and acknowledge planned gifts. I wrote an earlier 20-minute fix about updating your planned-giving page to be donor-centric. Here is another idea to make sure your staff is prepared to field planned-giving inquiries.
Convince your spouse or a good friend to call in to your own nonprofit’s office on his or her cell phone, pretending to be a donor with a question about donating stock or setting up a trust. Tell them to contact your organization however they are instructed to do so on your website.
What happens when they call? Who is notified about the call? What information does the recipient of the call ask the caller for? How quickly does someone return the call to say thank you and provide any further information?
I’ve heard countless stories of donors calling in—in one case from a donor intending to leave a multi-million-dollar planned gift—only to have the nonprofit fail to return the call at all.
It might be that the person answering the phones didn’t check voice mail for a few days. It may be that they don’t know what a planned-giving donor is looking for, or who to reach out to on the development team when they get such a call, which might only happen once or twice per year (or per decade). Or it might be that the contact listed as the person to reach out to about planned gifts on your website hasn’t worked at your nonprofit in 3 years.
The frontline response to a planned-giving inquiry is so important because the majority of planned-giving donors will not be major donors beforehand. They don’t already have a direct line to a development staff member, the cell phone number of the president, or any familiarity with directly contacting development staff. They’re likely a direct-mail donor who has never received a personal call from your nonprofit at all.
Will your lack of preparedness cost your organization its next unexpected, transformational gift? Once you learn how your staff responds to this “test call,” prepare a memo on how properly to address a planned-giving inquiry. Share it with your development staff and anyone else who might answer a phone call and answer any questions at a staff meeting. It’s easy to retain planned gifts—but it’s just as easy to drop the ball.
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