PRO TIPS | Your Charity’s Competitive Advantage is to (Clearly) State the Reasons to Invest in the Future – Use It!

publication date: Aug 24, 2023
author/source: Ed Sluga, CFRE

In recent articles, I have been exploring the world of donor advised funds. “DAFs,” as they are known, have become popular among individuals and families. Accordingly, the financial institutions that offer DAFs have also become more proactive in promoting them. In the majority of situations, the financial institution already has a relationship with the DAF donor, so it is easy for them to present it as a philanthropic option. It is the financial institution’s competitive advantage, and they use it.

This often leaves charities feeling like outsiders to a closely-held relationship. Fundraisers don’t know how to gain a “foot hold” with the donor and they watch from the sidelines while gifts are arranged as DAFs rather than being directed to the charity.

In my last article I provided three steps any charity could take to “get in the game.” The most important point was to build a compelling planned giving case for support. But why? Why a case for support in general and why a planned giving case for support?

Most fundraisers know that a case for support is crucial to establishing the necessary narrative to engage donors but they are often unable to build a proper case. That is normally for two reasons—the first leading into the second.

1. Most CEOs and EDs of organizations don’t understand the purpose of a case for support. They assume everyone knows the importance of their work at their charitable organization. They are wrong. This leads to the second reason -
2. It is seen as too expensive. Why spend money on something leadership believes is unnecessary?

Without an overall case for support, it makes sense that even fewer organizations have a specific case for support for planned giving. This is unfortunate because this is where the true competitive advantage is for charities.

Create an inspired reason to give

A clearly defined reason to exist with a goal to carry out your mission 20 or more years from today, provides a donor with an inspired reason to give to your organization. It helps establish that you see the future and its need. It shows you have done the work to understand the challenges that your community, region, the country, or the world will be faced with. And, you have a plan to help.

That is what people want to support. If you provide your supporters with a look into the future need, and share how your organization is positioning itself to meet that need—you are establishing a clear and compelling vision for the donation that may be established to support you.

But how do we build such a case? It takes time but it is worth it. The first step is to gather information. Seek out information from the following three groups.

Leadership – Whether staff or board, gathering information and commitment from the organization’s current leadership is crucial. Here is a secret, when we discuss with our leaders what they perceive to the be the need the organization will have to address in twenty years – or more – time, they start to understand their fundamental role which is to prepare the organization for that future.

Program Staff – are often the key source for an understanding of the future of the mission of the organization. With strategic plans—representing the vision of the organization—getting ever shorter (have you heard about the trend toward quarterly strategic planning?) your program delivery staff often see the future better than those who are tasked to prepare for it. Seek out their knowledge and insight.

Donors who have created their future gift – This is the most important group and the least understood. Most organizations never ask for the opinion of those that actually give. From universities, to hospitals, to social service organizations, to international development and every other organization—there is a general lack of consideration given as to why current donors have actually created a gift. It gets in the way. But, trust me, this is the source of your greatest wisdom when looking into the future of your organization! I use the word wisdom for good reason. Most donors that are willing to tell the story about their gift are older – and just maybe a bit wiser, in terms of seeing the positive effect of your organization on their life and community. That is why they are giving. It should inspire your organization and your case.

Take time to gather input from these sources and in my next article, I will explain how to put it all together to create a planned giving case for support.

Ed Sluga, CFRE is one of Canada’s most experienced planned giving professionals and is also co-founder of PGgrowth. Ed is a noted speaker, the co-author with Peter Barrow of Worthy and Prepared, host of the PGgrowth Planned Giving Podcast, Professor of Major Giving and Planned Giving with the Humber College Fundraising Management Program and a regular presenter of the AFP Fundraising Fundamentals Course.

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