Why do we things the way we do? It’s a question we sometimes forget to ask ourselves, but it’s an important one.  In this series, we’ll be asking a fundraising question that might seem simple, and looking to a Good Worker and a guest for their thoughts. There are no right answers here, but we hope we get your fundraising gears turning!

In this episode, Leah Eustace takes on the topic of where it’s worth looking for planned giving prospects. Her guest is Ryan Fraser, owner of Quiet Legacy Planning Group, a firm that provides Donor Talks, Leadership Coaching and Training Workshops for charities. He can be found engaging in social media shenanigans with certain Good Workers at the CAGP national conference from time to time.

Take it away, you two!

Question: Can your best planned giving prospects can be found by looking at your loyal donors?



Yes, absolutely. 9 times out of 10, your best planned giving prospects will be your most loyal donors. It’s not a perfect rule, but it’s your best bet.

In fact, over the years, we’ve had clients who’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars to have their data analyzed by outside firms. They’ve been presented with fancy reports and a shortlist of the people in their database who are the best prospects for a bequest.

We’ve gone in afterwards and, with a few suggestions and a wee bit of guidance, have coached the charity’s staff on how to pull up their own list based on loyalty. The list they pull up is virtually identical to the one for which they paid tens of thousands of dollars.

Those donors who have given to you for five or more consecutive years have indicated to you that they are more deeply committed to your cause. They’re sticking with you, and you’re probably one of their favourite charities. They aren’t the only ones, but they are the folks who are the most likely to be interested in talking to you about bequests (and I tend to stick with bequests since 95% of planned gifts in Canada come through in that form).

It makes the most sense to use a targeted approach and focus your bandwidth on the segment that’s most likely to pay off. That way you can build programs that speak directly to those donors and leverage more of them into planned gifts.



Your loyal donors will always be good planned giving prospects, but an exclusive focus on loyalty – in terms of donations –  can led you to miss some opportunities. The work I have done with millionaire-next-door (MND) donors suggests that some of your best prospects in terms of capacity might be in your B & C level donors.  Depending on your “loyalty threshold” in your screening process, you may miss them.

MND donors specialize in blending in…so, many may make modest or irregular lifetime donations that are not indicative of capacity for end-of-life gifts.  Often, some will be loyal in other ways such as volunteering.   The MND donor typically gives far less than their capacity to do so would suggest.  They have probably been following you quietly for years without you recognizing them. They love anonymous donations when they do make a gift.

Many of them are most likely to donate during major life changes, such as the passing of a spouse, parent or close friend.  After years of donor talks, I am constantly amazed that usually 20% of the audience has recently lost someone, and this becomes a strong gift incentive.  These events become triggers for much larger strategic or planned gifts particularly for health-related charities which provided services to the deceased family member.

Marketing to this group is counter-intuitive. They respond well to terms that normally we’d tell you never to put in your PG marketing –sessions on  tax reduction and estate planning is music to their ears, and often they will step forward in response if coming from a charity they have an interest in.   They have charitable intent – but may not know how to align their thrifty nature with your organization.


Banner image by Thomas Claveirole from Flickr via Creative Commons.