Do Nonprofits Have Their Heads in the Sand?

head2I attended Planned Giving Days in Washington last week and came away really inspired about the potential for truly transformational gifts to change the world.

But it’s got me scratching my head a bit. Why do so many nonprofit organizations continue to under-invest in planned giving marketing? After all, studies estimate that in excess of $50 trillion dollars will change hands in the next 50 years. Even if those estimates are off by 50%, that’s still a heck of a lot of money.

Yet, year after year, we hear from our clients that they are cutting or holding flat their planned giving budgets. While the business community has been preparing for years to “seize” the boon from the baby boom, most nonprofits continue to have their heads stuck in the sand.

Why? Here are a few reasons I’ve come up with. (I’d love to hear what you think as well):

1)    Bottom line thinking. Too many organizations are managing to today’s bottom line. With CFOs wielding tremendous power, budgets are held flat, even in areas that have tremendous growth potential such as fundraising and marketing.

2)    Staff turnover. Development professionals are not staying in their jobs for long–staff turnover hovers at around 20%. And, since their development dollars are limited and their goals often unrealistic, they lean toward investing in areas that can produce the most revenue quickly. See number 1.

3)    Death is scary. Despite all our progress, everyone is still terrified to think about and talk about death. Even though I would maintain that the planned giving conversation is more about one’s life purpose and actually has very little to do with death.

So, come on people. If you want to achieve truly transformative social change, stop ignoring one of your most robust pipelines for transformational sized gifts. Sure it’s going to take some time for your efforts to pay off. But the last time I checked, we weren’t in any jeopardy of ending global warming, curing cancer, or achieving world peace any time soon. If we really want to accomplish those goals, we’ve got to start thinking beyond this year’s budget.

– Posted by Kathy Swayze, CFRE, @impactkathy



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