Major and Planned Gifts: How to Engage Professionals on Their Own Terms
Major-gifts and planned-gifts officers constantly seek ways to engage with prospects and donors. Every technique is used on a daily basis to identify, rate and screen prospects.
At times, it is very hard to make appointments to meet the people whom officers need to engage. If you can't meet a prospect directly, you might be able to engage his or her professional representative. Many individuals have CPAs, trust officers, attorneys, life insurance agents, financial planners, bankers or other type of professionals they rely upon for financial decisions.
One client decision these people could influence might be whether or not to make charitable contributions and possibly what charities to support. If you tried to create awareness with professionals concerning your charity, how much time and effort did it take just to make one appointment? I can tell you this approach takes a great deal of time and effort. Have you ever thought of a way to engage a large number professionals on their own terms that is a win-win for them and you?
Professionals in every field need to stay abreast of new information. The pace and volume of new information is amazing. Professionals need information to stay on top of their games as their clients demand and expect the greatest expertise available. Many individuals must have and desire continuing education (CE) opportunities each year. Depending upon their field and requirements, many individuals attend conferences and travel great distances to acquire much needed CE hours.
If you ask, some people would possibly be interested in acquiring CE credits in the easiest way possible. My planned-giving staffers discovered an excellent way to provide CE credits to professionals and make them aware of our charity. They do this each year by having The Salvation Army sponsor the Estate & Charitable Gift Planning Institute. This daylong program, which is in the form of a national webcast, brings professionals to a variety of national sites. In Indiana, 11 statewide sites are utilized, including the largest site located in Indianapolis.
The agenda for the 2014 day, which was held on Sept. 16, included a registration and welcome, three major educational sessions, lunch, and a wrap-up question-and-answer session. Most professionals arrived for coffee at 9:30 a.m. and left for the day at 4:30 p.m. The speakers for the program were Ann B. Burns, principal at the Gray Plant Mooty law firm, and Samuel A. Donaldson, a law professor at Georgia State University.
During daylong brief breaks, the 372 Indiana registrants learned about The Salvation Army Indiana Division and the impact planned gifts have made to help those in our community. The professionals who participated in the day received continuing education credits and a binder filled with "take home" information. Each person was warmly greeted, and every effort was made to engage attendees on a one-on-one basis before the event began. A large number had attended the 2013 event and said they looked forward to attending the event each year. Most professionals received five or six CE credits depending upon their field of study requirements.
What are the major benefits of sponsoring this type of webcast production? It allows you to:
- Provide continuing education benefits
- Get to know an array of professionals on a one-on-one basis
- Provide take home information to professionals
- Create an email or mail list of contacts
- Have professionals meet statewide leadership and planned-giving staff
- Obtain feedback from professionals regarding their clients
- Establish a "best of class" program that leads to greater planned and major gifts
We do not wait for another year to pass to contact a number of these attendees. The webcast gives our staff a great platform to make follow-up appointments.
I encourage you to consider some type of continuing education credit method to engage your professionals. Start with a creation of a local professional list representing several areas of expertise, and follow it up with a survey. Who knows where it will lead. One thing is for certain: You will engage these professionals on their terms, and they will appreciate the effort.
Who knows, it may pay off in a significant estate plan, which we realized this year!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.