Planned giving prospects come in all ages, levels of affluence and family situations, with
different philanthropic and financial objectives. Avoid generalizing prospects into a
narrow set of characteristics or overlooking a prospect because of particular
characteristics. With that said, where do you begin? Some organizations begin the
prospect identification process by analyzing individuals who are currently on the radar
screen, namely, those individuals who have previously made substantial gift
commitments to the organization or are supporting the organization on a regular basis
through annual fund commitments. Don't feel as though the process of identifying
planned gift prospects must begin by identifying "new" prospects with no previous gift
history. It is more likely than not that those individuals who become planned gift donors
have a history of previous giving or involvement with the park or park friends group.
Current Planned Gift Donors
First, identify individuals who have current planned gift commitments in place. Perhaps
they have named the organization as a beneficiary in a will, retirement plan, or life
insurance policy. As discussed previously, a donor has no obligation to notify an
organization that it has been included as a beneficiary. For that reason, some
planned giving recognition societies
in addition to including one- line responses on annual
appeals that provide an opportunity for the donor to notify the organization that a planned
gift commitment is already in place. Once current planned gift donors are identified, it is
the planned giving officer and/or park superintendent's responsibility to contact those
donors, thank them for their commitments, and attempt to begin cultivating personal
relationship with those donors. Not only will this provide an opportunity to obtain details
about their planned gift commitments, but it will also create an opportunity to convert
revocable arrangements, like bequests, into irrevocable commitments.
Annual Fund Donors
Second, look at the donors who contribute to your organization's annual fund and the
number of years they have contributed. Pay particular attention to those who have
contributed over the last ten years or so. They have demonstrated that they are willing to
support your organization on a consistent basis.
They may be interested in supporting the organization throughout their lifetime or after
their death through a planned gift. Given that some gifts provide donors with income and
tax benefits, they may be able to make a gift or give at a higher level than they previously
thought they were capable of doing.
Board, Volunteers and Staff
Other prospects may be found among those who have been active in the organization
such as former or current board members or trustees, volunteers, administrative and
professional staff, former donors and community leaders. The linkage to the organization
exists or did exist at one time-it is the planned giving officer's responsibility to
determine if the ability and interest are still present. Keep in mind that most individuals
have a variety of charitable interests, so even if the interest in the organization is not at
the highest possible level, an individual may still be interested in supporting the
organization, particularly through an estate plan arrangement that does not require a
current outlay of cash or assets. Not all planned giving prospects have a high net worth.
There may be many individuals of moderate wealth who would be willing to entertain the
idea of making a current transfer to an organization in return for a stream of income or
willing to include an organization as a partial beneficiary in a will, retirement plan, or life
insurance policy. In addition, don't overlook donors who fall below certain annual giving
levels, such as $500. Some individuals, even though interested in a particular
organization, will never make a significant commitment to that organization during their
lifetime because they are conservative or need the peace of mind that they will have
sufficient assets available for unforeseen emergencies such as major medical expenses.
However, these same individuals may be willing to make a significant gift to the
organization at death through one of the various planned giving methods.
Professional Financial Advisors
Networking with professional financial advisors, particularly those practicing in the local
community, can sometimes lead an organization to new prospects. Clients sometimes
look to their professional advisors, such as attorneys, accountants, financial planners, and
trust officers, for advice in satisfying philanthropic objectives. Many financial advisors
actively promote various planned giving instruments to their clients, recognizing that
some clients will lose control over a certain percentage of assets at death due to estate
tax. With proper lifetime planning, some planned giving instruments can allow
individuals to redirect dollars that would have otherwise been lost to the government in
the form of taxes to their favorite charities, thereby allowing the individual to determine
how their hard-earned dollars are spent.
Some organizations formalize their network of financial advisors by creating a planned
giving committee that meets periodically to create gift acceptance policies, review
prospect lists, prepare articles for planned giving newsletters and learn more about the
organization's mission. Many professional advisors welcome the opportunity to learn
more about an organization's mission, the programs it offers, and the people it serves.
Creating opportunities for advisors to come to an organization's site and observe
firsthand the organization and its people as they carry out that mission may leave an
indelible mark that may cause advisors to think of the organization when discussing
philanthropic alternatives with their clients.