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Planned Giving Training in Three Bullet Points

I want to sound off on planned giving. Nobody is doing enough of it. It always seems like it’s some ‘elusive field’. Like we are ‘waiting to get trained in that area’ or whatever. I want to make this as simple as possible.

Planned giving is just a sale (or another form of a major gift) to a person that wants to help your organization. It is a just a means or a vehicle. Your job is to present the prospect with a wonderful opportunity to change lives, save lives or impact lives.

There are hundreds (probably thousands) of ways to do a planned gift. YOU do not need to know how to do them. Leave that to an insurance agent, a lawyer, a financial planner, etc.

Here is the training … ready?

There are three forms of a planned gift:

  1. Assignment of a life insurance policy.
  2. Bequest (will).
  3. Other

If the prospect wants to assign life insurance he/she can call his or her agent. A simple bequest can be a codicil to a will (just google it). Other includes all those ‘other’ complicated financial arrangements (including gift annuities) that we can pass off to an expert.

Most smaller planned gifts will either involve life insurance or a very simple bequest.

I DON’T believe I’m over simplifying. Your goal is to maximize every relationship at any given time. If you’re meeting with a prospect about a project need today you can also talk about providing TOMORROW in the form of a legacy or planned gift.

My point is that this should be simple and we should be asking nearly everyone for a planned gift commitment. Too often, I believe, individuals and organizations ‘wait’ until they have the necessary training or ‘organizational capacity’. If you get training you will get a thick binder that will sit on the shelf with tons of terms and if you wait you will leave tons of opportunities on the table.

Keep it simple …


Are you unique to this planet

Good to Great and the Social Sector
I’ve had Jim Collins’ ‘monograph’ in my bag for two weeks and finally had time to read and digest on a plane yesterday. It will only take you twenty minutes to read but the words deserve much more time to digest – great stuff.

We need to write more extensively about Collins’ add-on to Good to Great but I wanted to post one tiny little line that’s been stuck in my head for the past day.

Collins writes that one of outputs of a great organization is that it makes a distinct impact. More specifically,

“… it touches and does its work with such unadulterated excellence that if it were to disappear, it would leave a hole that could not be easily filled by any other institution on the planet.

So … digest that one for a while. That’s really BIG THINKING and I love it.


Extra Mile

Read something over the holiday from HR Consultant Towers Perrin.

They surveyed 85,000 workers (at large and mid-size companies) in 16 countries.


  • 14% (!) of workers are FULLY ENGAGED on the job (willing to go the extra mile for their employers, doing more than their job description requires, etc.).
  • 62% (!!) are MODERATELY ENGAGED.
  • 24% (!!!!) (the remainder) are DISENGAGED!

The leader of the Towers Perrin practice in the Chicago office said that “ENGAGEMENT requires a worker’s HEART as well as MIND. It involves not just an EMOTIONAL attachment to the company but also a RATIONALE way to channel those emotions to elevate a company’s performance.”

They went on to say that “ENGAGEMENT levels vary from industry to industry, but the most striking variance involves NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS.”



In the For Impact world, we already know this. We didn’t need a survey. Our PEOPLE/TALENT are, for the most part, deeply committed … which is why we can achieve so much, with so little.

P.S. If yours aren’t (ENGAGED/COMMITTED), you need to do something about your “BUS”.


Good Work Attracts Good Money

Just finally got around to skimming my December 8, 2005 issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy. (What a great job they do of covering our “world” as opposed to that rag NPT.)

Steve Mayer heads the Effective Communities Project in Minneapolis. Never met him, but LOVED HIS MESSAGE!!!

Main thrust was towards “COMMUNITY FOUNDATIONS”.

You’d think they would be interested in the “COMMUNITY“. Instead, Mayer comments, “They have a different purpose: To Build & Manage Big Endowments.”

I feel the same way about a lot of the larger nonprofit organizations, universities, etc. It’s an ENDOWMENT WAR. You’ve heard my shtick on that.

If you get a chance to read this message from Mayer, it’s worth looking at.

Of course, his title “GOOD WORK ATTRACTS GOOD MONEY” is pretty consistent with our For Impact Epiphany:


P.S. Get some really good thoughts around “innovative thinking” for Community Foundations. Check it out.


The Most Important Question

This is a quick one to share – let you ponder and add your thoughts.

When meeting with a new prospect or a group or even someone very familiar with your organization, what is the Single Most Important Question you should ask to start things off?

How about this one:

“What do you know about our organization?”

Or, if the person has long been associated/involved with your organization:

“What do you know about this project?”

Or, more broadly:

“What do you know about [insert your cause here]?”

Listening to the answer will do wonders for your ability to have a productive visit. The answer to this singular, one important question could:

  • Save a lot of time (you don’t want to repeat things he/she already knows)
  • Get out misunderstandings (if the prospect has the wrong idea about your org, you can address these points)

Presumably you know where you would like to be at the end of the visit (the goals).
Wouldn’t you like to know where you are at the beginning of the visit?

Two quick stories to share with you to make my point (one good, one bad) and then you get more thoughts/ideas online:

First, the bad (DID NOT ask the Most Important Question):

Three years ago we were helping a domestic violence shelter. They were trying to work with the community to locate new space so that they could increase the number of families that they served.

The prospect was a successful female entrepreneur. In the first meeting it was just she and I (male – single).

We had a great dialogue, hit it off, made our connections and I asked a lot of questions … Just not the single most important question.

I was sharing a number of astounding statistics about domestic violence – one of which is that one out of four women are victims of domestic violence.

She stopped me there …

“Nick, I know all this … I’m the one of those four.”

GULP. Who was I to be ‘informing’ her about the problem?

She was willing to share this information. I should’ve asked the most important question: What do you know about Domestic Violence?

For another organization (DID ask the Most Important Question):

A board member and I were visiting with someone that the staff had identified as a great prospect and friend of the organization. I had a thick folder full of information (thanks to all the ‘prospect research data services’, Google and staff interviews).

After we got to know each other on the visit I asked most important question:

Q. “Can you just share with us what you know about XYZ org?”

A. “Just about everything – I think. I was one of the three founders fifteen years ago.”

We had no idea this woman founded the organization. The staff had no idea. The board had no idea. Needless to say, it completely changed the nature of visit and we moved immediately to an exciting dialogue about HOW we were going to make the vision for the current project a reality.

Next time you’re on a visit don’t forget to ask The Most Important Question.


“As a Donor I want a Relationship”

Nancy M shared a wonderful talk given by a philanthropist and Chair of a local Campaign.

I thought you would enjoy these THOUGHTS from the talk.


“I also know firsthand what a donor experiences when being approached.

The very first thing I want to hear is a GOOD STORY. Why are you the one cause or organization I should give my time and money towards?

I hear lots of moving stories. Essentially I’m being asked to take a leap of faith that you are the most capable to make the dream come true.”


“What are you going to do with the money?

How do you plan to pull if off?

How can I be INVOLVED to make it happen?”


“If I am considering taking that leap, I look at the leadership and STAFF of the organization, which matters as much to me as the vision.”


“You can have the greatest mission, the greatest story to tell, however, I am truly betting on INVESTING in the people who can carry it off.”


“As a donor, who happens to be a woman, I want to be approached as the person I am. I know there is lots of data on people’s assets and giving histories.

All that is good, but never forget it is simply PEOPLE giving to PEOPLE.”


“I’m also directing in my dealings and do not appreciate transparent “CULTIVATION.” – In fact, I groan when I hear the word.” (TJS: YES!)

“It stands for being indirect and is mildly, to say the least, inauthentic.”


“As a donor, I want the ask to be thoughtful – I know it’s coming so approach me having done your homework. I want a RELATIONSHIP, I don’t want to be objectified.”


Leadership Consensus Building

Leadership Consensus Building is both a lightning fast alternative to a feasibility study and a process to:

  • Engage top stakeholders.
  • Gather input and feedback around your message and priorities.
  • Commit to a funding plan

This seminar is led by Tom Suddes and is 30 minutes in length.

MP3 File | Seminar Guidebook

You should use this LCB process IF:

  • Your VISION/MISSION/MESSAGE is NOT clear, concise and compelling … and CANNOT be delivered in a consistent way by all of your STAKEHOLDERS.
  • You are planning a Campaign … since this process is considerably more productive and
    valuable than the typical “Feasibility Study” or “Internal Case Statement”.
  • Your “needs” require FUNDING that is greater than you’ve ever attempted!!! (And,
    you are not celebrating your “150th anniversary” nor have “10,000 great relationships
    in your database.)

No More Special Events

With special, special thanks to Tom Peters, the man who WOWs me with almost every thought. Yes, the man is a crazy, contrarian, disruptive exclamation point! Which is why I love his thinking.

This is much longer than most of my WOW Emails … but it’s a pretty big “epiphany” (both mine and Peters’ word). In fact, this WOW Email is itself meant to ben a “Memorable Experience“. As you read deeper, I’m even hoping it could be a “Transforming Experience“.

I urge you to share it with your Board, your Development Committee, your “Gala” Committee, your Golf Outing Committee, your Auction Committee. In fact, share it with everyone and anyone who has ever had to go to a “nonprofit … fundraising … function“!

Here goes.

NO MORE “SPECIAL EVENTS”. NONE! NADA! ZIPPO! (Not even “One Big One”, which I used to recommend.)


  • Special Events are NOT special!
  • Special Events are NOT even events! They are time-consuming, staff-burning, volunteer-abusive activities.


I always ask the question, “How many of you want to do MORE Special Events?” I have yet to see a hand raised from thousands of participants.

Admit it. Your “Special Events” are not! They’re the ‘same old, same old’ … for you and for your “customers/constituents/stakeholders/prospects/potential investors/ investors”.


The goal of For-Impact leaders within a World Class Development Office is to create “Memorable Experiences“!!

I have now gone from a “function” (in the old, old, old days) to a “Special Event” (that is not really special) … to “MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES“!

For Impact Organizations are all about “MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES“.

I was “there”. I just couldn’t get the right “word” I was looking for. Tom Peters found it. I added Memorable to ensure you could distinguish the difference between a Memorable Experience and a “not so special, not so event”.

We spend 1,000 man/woman volunteer hours to raise $1,400! Have you ever actually stopped and asked those “volunteers” if they wouldn’t rather just give you the $1.40 an hour?

Have you ever actually stopped and asked your staff if they have more productive ways to spend their time than coordinating all these events?

“But our Special Event (Auction/Gala/Dinner/Newspaper Sale/Golf Outing) … is DIFFERENT! We ‘raised’ almost $100,000!”

Yeah??? Do you remember your funding GOAL??? Again, you spent a huge amount of volunteer time and energy … AND months and months of staff time … AND you actually “grossed” $100,000.

Simple business principle: You must deduct ALL costs and expenses from your gross dollars! Yes, that includes your staff time! When you do that, you actually “net” $35,000! Or, in other words, it cost you 65¢ to raise $1.00!!!

AND … (this is the worst)! No one who was at your event “experiences” anything about your For Impact Organization! They leave with their auction paddle, a few golf balls, miscellaneous “stuff” … but no mention of WHAT you do, WHY you do it or HOW you do it!!

ACTION: Use the “EXPERIENCE” word to help:

  1. Communicate your STORY! …
  2. Share your VISION! …
  3. WOW the “audience” with what you do, why you do it and how you do it …

I know you think I’ve “lost it” (again!) “You and Tom Peters are both whacko crazies who throw ideas at us that sound good (even exciting) but they can’t be acted upon!” I can hear you now: “We can’t do that … we’re a nonprofit”! “We have no budget”! “Our volunteers won’t go along with that”! “We’ve always done it this way!” “The Committee expects it.” Etc., etc., etc. (Think “Sacred Cows”, “whine with your cheese”, etc.)

Blow it up! Abandon it! Re-imagine it! Turn the “Sacred Cow” into hamburger!

I know many of you (and your organizations) see this move from “Function” to “Special Event” to MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE as a HUGE LEAP!

It’s not.


From “Special Event” to “Memorable Experience” to a “TRANSFORMING EXPERIENCE“.

It’s just not “special”. It’s not even just “memorable”. It literally and truly and actually TRANSFORMS the people through the “experience“.

My first real “experience” with a “Memorable Experience” was at Notre Dame. Jim Frick and Fr. Hesburgh were so far ahead of the curve when they began “fly-ins” to Notre Dame. The numbers were staggering: 111 people brought in. 107 commitments. Over $100 million of commitments (on $130 million campaign). It was about the “experience” of those who were flown in for the weekend. Private jets (in 1975!) Mass at the Log Chapel. Dinner on top of the library with all the lights on campus turned on. Customized tours of areas of interest, etc., etc., etc.

If any of you have ever been to an American Cancer Society RELAY for Life Experience, you know what a Memorable Experience is. Twenty-four hours around a track with luminaries and survivors and families is a MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE! It’s a moving experience! It adds to the “story”! They still call it a “Special Event” but that’s because of the size of the bureaucracy. They’re actually running Relay for Life as a skunk works entrepreneurial venture separate business unit. Is it working? They raised $275 Million last year; and hope to raise $1 Billion in the next three years.

Here are some Hewlett Packard WHAT IF’s:

WHAT IF … you are a For Impact Organization?

WHAT IF … you have a social entrepreneur’s mentality?

WHAT IF … you use creativity, not money?

WHAT IF … you bought into this whole “Memorable Experience”

WHAT IF … you carried it beyond your ‘events’???

WHAT IF … everything you did in your World Class Development Office was a Memorable Experience?! Your Annual Report?! Your Mailings?! Your Leadership Society WOW Packets?! Your Recognition Events?!

WHAT IF … you turn a simple “tour” of your facility or new building or whatever into a MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE???

This is what the Red Cross is doing in Maine as they move from a simple “event” in their new building to a truly Memorable Experience … which shows off the building as the “place” where they provide training, services, and administer disaster relief. (They’re not only going to invite Qualified Prospects/Investors but their families, spouses and children to see the WHAT, WHY and HOW of the American Red Cross in their community!!!)

WHAT IF … it went beyond your Development Office??? To your organization?

  • Your reception (area or receptionist) was a Memorable Experience?
  • Your introduction to your stakeholders was a Memorable Experience?
  • Every “Moment of Truth” (from Jan Carlson) was
    a Memorable Experience?

WHAT IF … every Board Meeting was a MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE? Now you’ll get attendance! Now you’ll get people who actually enjoy going to Board Meetings vs. the same old boring information dissemination that exists at most Board Meetings.

(I speak from some personal experience here. I’m on the Board of one of the finest For Impact Organizations in the world. Its cause is unbelievable. Its staff is the best! Its founder and key Board members are truly exceptional! And … its Board Meetings are dull, boring and forgettable. Who wants to drive 45 minutes to a “Board Meeting” to “review the finances” … to “listen to Committee Reports” … to, occasionally, “hear about our impact???” No ONE.)

Here’s the tip/idea/lesson: If you could make every one of your Board Meetings a truly MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE … with PARTICIPATIONFEEDBACKACTUAL CONTACT with those you serve, those who deliver, those who partner, etc., wouldn’t that be awesome?

A Special, Special, Special Note!

  MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES require Creativity! Innovation! WOWs! Artists! Mavericks!

Which means …

You cannot create Memorable Experiences with the same group of volunteers who have run your not-so-Special Events for the last ten years!

You cannot create Memorable Experiences if they are led by your Accounting Office … your Finance Office … your HR Department!!

Think artists! Think theatre! Think young! (Give that new staff person a chance to show off their creativity!)

If you’ve ever been touched by the Suddes Experience, you know I love to change your vocabulary … change the way you think … change how you speak and then act.

Here are some closing thoughts on old words and new words that could help you “get it”.

(But, remember the immortal words of Kevin Kelley, another great thinker/writer: “It’s much easier to KILL an organization than to change it substantially.”)


  • Special Events
  • A “Nice” Function (Read Gala, Golf Outing, Fundraising Dinner, etc., etc., etc.)
  • A Motorcycle
  • Shoes
  • A Cup of Coffee
  • A Costly Airplane Ride
  • A Circus (with 3 Rings and some Animals)


  • Memorable Experiences
  • A Knock Your Socks Off … Incredible WOW … Transforming Experiences!
  • The Harley Davidson Experience
  • The Nike Experience
  • The Starbucks Experience
  • The Southwest/Jet Blue Experience
  • *The Cirque Du Soleil Experience

*If you have not been to a Cirque Du Soleil “Experience” … go to one as soon as you possibly can! They’re in Vegas. Orlando. Multiple road shows around the country. You cannot attend a Cirque Du Soleil performance and not understand the word “Experience“.

I want you to think about these three things:

  1. Memorable Experiences as a truly transforming idea. (Change the Way you THINK!)
  2. Memorable Experiences as a very big deal in your For-Impact Organization … and within your World Class Development Office! (Change the Way you OPERATE!)
  3. Memorable Experiences as an incredible PREDISPOSITION IDEA … and a mantra for PRESENTING THE OPPORTUNITY. (Change the Way you FUND!)

This last is pretty exciting! It turns a Not-So-Special Event into a Memorable Experience … which is then used as PREDISPOSITION to PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY!
(I know you’re tired of WOW! But I truly believe this is a WOW!)

This PREDISPOSITION is a big, big, big deal! Think about your Memorable Experiences as perhaps the BEST way to predispose for the presentation of the opportunity!

*Again, that means your Memorable Experience has to be tied directly to your For-Impact Organization’s reason for existence … (as opposed to an event tied to Golf or Gala or Dinner!)

Here’s the proverbial (SIMPLE) bottom line. Create Memorable Experiences!

Make them a showcase for both your cause and your organization!

Turn them into unbelievable PRESENTATION TOOLS … perfect PREDISPOSITION … and the OPPORTUNITY!!!