Upping Your Planned Giving Game | The CAGP Conference Delivers – Part 1

publication date: Jul 20, 2022
author/source: David Love

During my 50 years of raising money, I’ve been to a lot of fundraising conferences. Indeed, the first was a WWF “Family” meeting 45 years ago in Washington, DC to talk about direct mail and legacies. From that conference on, as an audience member and as a frequent presenter, I adopted a rule: take ONE thing away from every presentation that I can implement on my return.

I wasn’t always successful. In the WWF example, I was. Within two years, WWF Canada had a vibrant, profitable direct mail program and we were talking to our donors about leaving a gift in their Will.

But sometimes, practical ideas were simply not offered. I learned to avoid those conferences (and presenters).

This preamble is to introduce you to some stunning learnings from my most recent excursion, the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Gift Planners (CAGP) in Halifax, Nova Scotia in June.

I attended five sessions given by some richly talented people. In this two-part article, I share the one idea – the gem – I took away from every session. Of course, there was much more, but I want to cut to the chase and offer you key ideas you can use tomorrow to raise more money for your important work.

Session One: The Giving Brain - A Masterclass on the Art and Science of Legacy Giving with Holly Wagg, Good Works

A highlight of the session, which is too long for this article, was Holly’s discussion of the Eight Facts about the Legacy Brain. If you’re interested, I’m confident Holly would share them with you – hwagg@goodworks.ca

My take-away from this session was a blast from the past. 

For many years, we held two opinions about planned giving. The first was that planned gifts were for rich people. We now know that is simply not true. Everyone can – and many will – leave a planned gift. As WWF says in its legacy video, “Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

The second was that a major motivation for a planned gift was the opportunity to take advantage of tax savings. As a result, we thought we needed to know about a blizzard of financial instruments. This is also not true. For most, the motivation for a planned gift is deeply personal and rooted in the donor’s core values.

But, (and here is my learning from Holly) once the decision is made, tax advantages DO become important. Because two indicators of the likelihood of making a planned gift are higher education and wealth. People considering a planned gift, expect gift planners to know about and be able to talk intelligently about tax advantages. 

Thankfully, the excellent book “Planned Giving for Canadians” contains all you need to know and it’s free with your CAGP membership.

Session Two: Legacy Marketing 101 - Build It and They Will Come with Harvey McKinnon, Harvey McKinnon Associates and David Kravinchuk, The Common Good Fundraising Agency

It’s not often in a presentation that I’m hit with a brand-new idea which has huge implications for fundraisers. This happened in this session with Harvey and David, and it is my second session take-away.

We are constantly hearing that the next 20 – 30 years belong to legacy fundraisers as the boomers come and go. The oldest boomers are 76 in 2022 and the youngest are 57. They are our greatest legacy prospects and there are a lot of them. But their coming and going will leave a huge gap in many donor files.

The annual program, the lifeblood of many charities, especially those engaged in environment and social justice issues, will dramatically shrink. The program that produces the future monthly, mid-level, major gifts and legacy will dwindle. And if nothing is done about it, future revenues will be greatly reduced. 

Some readers may have already thought about this and have plans in place at their organization to address it. I admit, it came as a bolt of lightning to me.

Session Three: The Elephant in the Room: A Masterclass in Death and Dying with Janice St-Denis, McMaster University and Liz Finney, Bonny Lea Farm 

I have often wondered why there aren’t more sessions like this at a gift-planning conference. The subject of death is indeed, the elephant in the room! Kudos to Janice and Liz for leading a thoughtful discussion about it.

My third take-away is a better understanding of grief and a guide to helping donors deal with it. 

Janice and Liz talked about The Grief Project and specifically outlined eight ways we can “witness grief” with our donors. Here they are with no commentary:

  • Hold them
  • Validate their feelings
  • Say,“I hear you.”
  • Don’t be pushy
  • Don’t try to cheer them up
  • Say their name
  • Tell stories about their love
  • Acknowledge their pain

These tips are neatly summarized in one sentence: You don’t need to be perfect, just present.

In Part 2 – Tips from Session 4 (Building Sustainability by Breaking Down Silos) and Session 5 (The Power of Legacy Videos).

Mark your calendar, next year’s conference is in Vancouver, BC from April 19 – 21. Maybe I’ll see you there!


David Love raised his first dollar for the environment in 1969. He raised his most recent one today.  He now occasionally works on legacies with his daughter’s direct response company, Agents of Good, where he is affectionately known as “The Godfather of Good. David’s book "Green Green" summarizing lessons learned in 51 years of fundraising is now available.  Enter SN20 at checkout for a 20% discount. david@agentsofgood.org 

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