The chair of the Board of a client organization recently paid me the supreme compliment. “Mersky simply will not take no for an answer when it comes to engaging and soliciting our donors. He will always find alternatives for me to consider.”
When the President of the American College of the Building Arts in Charleston, SC—reported this to me, I was beaming. Of course, what he was referring to was the ideal role of the solicitor—that of problem solver.
I had already conducted several solicitations with the chair of the Board and the College president. In one case, when a longtime supporter suggested that my request of a gift of $500,000 payable at $100,000 for each of the next five years, was “out of the question,” I began to probe to understand the source of the objection. It turned out that this extraordinarily generous and very wealthy octogenarian was beginning to contemplate large medical expenses and was afraid of outliving his resources. And, so, I began to explore alternative ways in which he could participate in the College’s capital and endowment campaign that would preserve is assets for family needs, but enable the College to recognize a substantial gift on its balance sheet that would be realized at some point in the future.
I outlined two different strategies—an irrevocable charitable remainder trust funded with a highly appreciated piece of real estate that was a non-income producing asset or a bequest to be realized upon the death of the second to die. In both cases, I suggested the creation of a wealth replacement trust to preserve the value of the assets for the donors’ heirs.
The outcome is not yet resolved—stay tuned. But, in either case the value of the gift to the College may now exceed $2,000,000. Successful capital campaigns help with planned giving and the more campaigns that we work on, them more we see the value of planned giving, which may account for 30% or more for a campaigns total achievement.
The power of planned giving—or what others call gift planning—is not only appropriate in the context of a capital campaign. In fact, planned giving should become one of the many arrows in your quiver with which to pierce the hearts of your prospective donors. Peoples’ eyes often glaze over when I begin to describe the details of these options. Then I have to explain that the tax benefits that apply to one prospect may not be available to another or the need for wealth replacement may only be required in some cases and not in others. Regardless, when seeking an ultimate gift—a donor’s largest single gift to your enterprise in his or her lifetime—these arcane vehicles may be of great value.
The key is that everyone is ultimately a philanthropist. The question is do your supporters want to be voluntary philanthropists in control of their own resources or do they want to be involuntary ones by having their children pay estate taxes in support of the government—federal and state. By developing a facility in planned giving you can help your donors as you achieve sustainability for your organization. That’s the real win-win.
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