Gifts of Real Estate and Other “Shiny Objects” (PSA 8)
Gifts of Real Estate (and Other “Shiny Objects”)
Practical Solution Announcement 8
JEFF: Hi everybody, this is Jeff Stein, President of Planned Giving Marketing for another installment of our PSAs: our Practical Solution Announcements. And as always, I’m joined by our friend and colleague Greg Wilson. Greg is the Senior, Major, and Planned Giving Officer at Good Shepherd Rehab in Allentown Pennsylvania. Thanks for joining us, Greg.
Over the past couple weeks, we’ve been having lots of conversations with clients, and you’ve been having great conversations with colleagues and donors.
In this series, we’re talking about the consistency of marketing. I am getting the sense that while we are in the mode of really looking for successes, and really looking for something to hang our hats on … there are a lot of people in fundraising positions who, even if they are having a successful and consistent marketing plan, they are getting distracted by what we all call the “shiny new objects.”
And it’s not to say that the things that they’re seeing are not remarkable and important from a fundraising perspective. But I’m beginning to caution that paying attention to these things and injecting them into your marketing plan may be a disservice.
One example was an organization that was kind of a little bit of hot streak right now. I think largely because they’ve been consistent in their efforts up until now, and then also through a little bit of luck, has had some interesting conversations about testamentary CGAs.
It’s topical and it’s interesting. But I’m concerned about scrapping a marketing plan that talks about mission and impact and spending a little bit too much time dwelling on why a CGA might be an advantageous way to give for a particular subset of their profile and a very very small subset of the marketing list.
At the same time, we were having a conversation about our marketing plan and a gift officer in your position had to pull themselves away because a real estate lawyer was calling about a piece of real estate that was left to the organization. And it’s exciting. And it’s a big piece of real estate.
The gift officer gets off the phone and apologizes for having to break away from our conversation. Then says, “This is really exciting, is there anyway we can tell more people about gifts of real estate?”
My answer is, “Well, that is really, really great, but is that something that is marketing or is that something that is fundraising. And do we really want to break from the plan that potentially led to that gift of real estate by now focusing on the gift and not on the mission and the outcome.
GREG: Yeah, and that’s a trail we all tend to follow down, because it is exciting. That’s part of the cycle of fundraising. It’s a really, really long slog and then we spike when we get this great gift and we’re like YAY!! This is awesome! And your hair is on fire for awhile.
That’s pretty natural and it goes back to one of my opinions and something that I’m thankful fir people like you–that there is an outside group that’s helping you with this marketing plan so that you can stick to the plan and not get distracted by the shining successes, which are what keep us alive in the profession, but it also what distracts you from being consistent, evergreen, and playing the long game with marketing rather than the little spikes up, which iss the fundraising side.
JEFF: I guess what we are bantering about here is how to not ignore our immediate successes but how not to allow our immediate successes to deviate our attention from the base strategy.
GREG: I think I’m even goes back to separating marketing which is awareness and and fundraising which is that sales point. I’m in an email exchange with a guy who does training. He said, “What do you think if I repost this?”
It’s sort of like a fundraising mailing plan kind of deal. It’s the typical it’s like what I would have built probably 10-15 years ago–15 years ago–to send out. Like in April you send this, and then September you always send something about CGAs. In November, it’s IRAs. I was trying to figure out how to walk that line without sort of being rude because he’s been around the block more than I have but … that’s more of a cultivation plan more than a marketing plan.
That’s like when you find 12 people who have talked to me about CGAs.
I really like CGAs. My one mentor would talk about a gift and interest intersection. He would talk about this little old lady he would meet with at the end of the calendar year. She would write him a CGA for whatever the balance was in her checking account.
But in my opinion, it would be a mistake to make the assumption that everyone is like her and wants to make the same process every year.
And again, I think it’s the difference between marketing and fundraising. You can send letters like that, but it has to be to people who have already said, “Hey I like you, and I’m interested in that gift because we have already talked about it.”
I was joking and said it seems like I’m splitting philosophical hairs. I think it’s a difference between what is marketing and what is just fundraising, where you’re bringing somebody along in that conversation. You send them a letter that looks like you personalized. The letter talks about CGAs, and I think that’s fine to send it to 12 people, but you shouldn’t send it to 1200 people. There’s 1188 people that letter is wasted on. They won’t put it on the side of the desk to pull in 2-3 years.They’ll just file it away in the circular file, not even good file it.
JEFF: That has to be a managed expectation of marketing. Most of it is going into the circular file and that’s okay right? It’s the ones that don’t go into the circular file. The ones that get stuck in the manila folder. Those are the ones you’re banking on.
This could be self contradictory. Not all of your marketing is going to appeal to everybody all of the time. You have to accept the fact that most of it is going to fall flat. But if you focus on one particular thing– if you craft a marketing campaign about the little old lady who lived in her checking account the end of every year to start a CGA right your marketing is going to fall even flatter. Because you’re taking a bit thing and cutting it down to something smaller and then you’re making it smaller again.
You’re taking “supporting the organization” to “supporting the organization with a CGA” to “supporting the organization with a CGA by emptying your checkbook every year.” I recognize when we start here, that much of it is going to get thrown in the trash, BUT we have to make sure that the part that is making it into the manila folder appeals to as many manila folders as possible.
GREG: I was trying to figure out how to phrase it. Within the marketing part, you have to lead with love of the organization rather than the gift vehicle. You know, it’s like, this little old lady loved Susquehanna so much that … . It needs to start with the love of the institution first and then go into the gift vehicle.
JEFF: Exactly. Exactly. Under normal circumstances, it’s difficult not to get caught up in the latest success right? This one thing happened to me therefore I need to go find more like it like it. Like I said under normal circumstances if you look back the last 10 years, there have been virtually no changes but for the permanency of the IRA rollover/QCD. Now, here we are and legislation is changing on a near-weekly basis. And to add insult to injury (maybe not the best use of the phrase) now the CGA rates are changing also.
One week we are having a conversation about how we are going to address CARES and then quite literally the next week, CARES is out the window because we need to address the declining gift annuity rates.
And my reaction to both of them was “you probably don’t want to make that the focal point of your marketing.” Because you’re just adding confusion to something that is already confusing. That being said, I have advised all of our clients who have disciplined CGA programs to contact anyone who has made a gift annuity and use this as an opportunity to improve the outcome based on the specific timing of their gift. But not to broadcast to the world that gift annuity rates are declining and “act now.”
Just as it was the case when rates rose a few years ago, the percentage difference in the increase was made to be significant, but the nominal increase was negligible. We’re talking about 50 bucks on a $10,000 gift annuity. I mean who’s going to pull their gift because instead of getting $550 on $10k, they are now getting $525.
GREG: Not only that, but I think most CGA’s come in between ten grand and I’m going to say 25k, with a few outliers of a 50k at the most kind of deal. I’ve only seen or done at the most, a handful of six-figure CGAs.
JEFF: And those are done out of convenience. If the donor was so inclined they would have established their own CRT and set up their own rates, and they would have been able to manage their own income as they saw fit, but some donors just do a CGA because it makes them feel good. It’s tidy.
GREG: Yes, it’s quick and easy. And even going back to something that I think is a good illustration. That’s the difference between marketing–where you have strong awareness of what you are doing and how people can express their love for an institution vs the early stages of cultivation of a donor or stewardship even where you are sending a very specific letter to those who have raised their hands about CGAs in the past and I might be interested in doing that again. You’re mailing something to them to say, “Hey, you’ve been interested in this in the past. The situation is changing compared to what you were looking at before. If you were thinking about it, here is how it affects you directly. That would be a terrible letter to send out to say 12 hundred people, because like you said 1188 of them are going to get really confused and be like what? what I don’t understand any of this and I thought I’d just love this organization and … they toss it.
It goes back to statement of of a of a pretty common author that if you confuse you lose kind of deal. I repeat that one to myself all the time. Like how to just make this as simple as and straight forward as possible.
JEFF: I think that’s a great wrap up and summary to our conversation. So today we talked about the distinction between marketing and fundraising. Fundraising being more associated with sales where you can get into specifics once you have an interested donor who is willing, as Greg said, is able to neet at the intersection of intention and gift type. And you said as much more eloquently than I did. And then the need to be very very consistent with your marketing.
And while these great things are happening and it’s very natural to get excited around successes–particularly now when successes may be a little fewer and further between–or the successes are more impactful for your mission’s ability to exist today, it’s not the time to break the marketing strategy to focus on the specifics of any one gift. Because what’s good for that one donor who made that gift happen is likely not going to be appropriate for the vast majority of people that you’re including in your marketing plan.
- Consistency is key
- Focus on Mission
- Make the message as evergreen as possible
- Stay the course
These are conversations that you are going to start today, and they may not materialize into a gift for 7, 10, 15, 25 years from now. Stick to mission. Stick to outcomes. Let the donor raise their hand and then begin the process of going down the asset list, going down that list of motivations, and figure out the best type of gift to help the donor achieve their philanthropic goals.
Thank you for joining us today.
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