Discussions About How to Raise Money in an Uncertain Economy Pull in Fundraisers at AFP Meeting
(NEW ORLEANS) Fundraisers from across the country learned more about planned giving, donor advised funds, and ways to gain and retain donors during today’s economic uncertainty, at AFP ICON, the annual conference of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, held April 15-18.
More than 3,600 people attended the event, which featured hundreds of education sessions and keynote discussions with ballet dancer Misty Copeland and celebrity chef Emeril Legasse.
Two topics attendees were excited about were planned giving, which involves donors leaving money to charities when they die, and gaining more access to givers who use donor advised funds.
We’re sorry. Something went wrong.
We are unable to fully display the content of this page.
If you continue to experience issues, contact us at 202-466-1032 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Fundraisers from across the country learned about planned giving, donor-advised funds, and ways to gain and retain donors during economic uncertainty at AFP ICON, the annual conference of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
More than 3,600 people attended the event, which featured hundreds of education sessions and keynote discussions by ballet dancer Misty Copeland and celebrity chef Emeril Lagassé.
Two topics attendees appeared excited about were planned giving, which involves donors leaving money to charities when they die, and gaining greater access to people who use donor-advised funds.
Planned giving is an excellent option for middle-class donors because it allows them to make a huge gift — a home worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, for example — even though they don’t have a lot of disposable income or feel like they’re wealthy, Jeff Grandy, vice president of client development at Catapult Fundraising, told attendees.
“Individuals who are not high net worth don’t have a team of people guiding them through these conversations,” Grandy said. “When you share with them that they can help transform your organization, you are going to see their face light up. You are probably the very first person to tell them that.”
He notes it’s important to help potential donors understand some of the possibilities but not give legal advice. Instead, “connect them to resources” like lawyers and financial advisers who can talk them through how to set up the gifts they want to leave behind.
According to Grandy, the best prospects for planned giving are people who do not have children but do have pets. His thinking: They show a great deal of loving kindness to their pets, want to leave a legacy that helps others, and aren’t concerned about leaving the bulk of their estate to children and grandchildren.
How to Reach DAF Givers
Another hot topic at the event was the use of donor-advised funds. These tax-advantaged giving vehicles allow donors to put aside money that they can give out over a period of time in a way that’s similar to creating a foundation — but without all the legal and tax hassles, said Jeremy Wells, senior vice president of philanthropic services at the St. Paul and Minnesota Foundation. DAFs are typically available through community foundations or commercial firms with nonprofit arms.
While many fundraisers at the session complained it was difficult to get information about who had made a contribution via a DAF, Wells and his co-presenter, Nancy Brown, CEO of the Winona Community Foundation, noted that community foundation DAFs often do share the donor’s information with the charity.
Even when those DAF donors want to remain anonymous, it’s still possible to reach out to them, says Wells. “I had someone who got a $10,000 grant, and the donor wanted to remain anonymous,” he said. “[The recipient organization] said, ‘Can I send you a note to give to them?’ I said, sure. The donor called me back and said, ‘That was one of the most beautifully written thank-you notes I’ve ever received.’ So do take the opportunity to thank your donors.”
Wells and Brown agreed that it’s sometimes harder to get donor information from bigger DAF-holding firms and suggested trying to get information about donors with DAFs in your database independently. Wells said any time you host an event, share with donors that they can contribute from their DAF. And any time you learn a donor has a DAF, record that information in your database.
DAFs and planned giving can work hand-in-hand. Grandy, Wells, and Brown noted that DAFs can have beneficiaries. So fundraisers can suggest the donor make the charity the beneficiary, which means it will get whatever is left in the DAF after the donor’s death. Brown noted that some DAFs can be multigenerational and are left to children so philanthropic giving can continue from that DAF.
Simple Changes to Improve Donor Retention
Fundraisers also flocked to sessions on how to hold on to donors. Jen Shang, co-founder of the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, presented research, “Loyalty Meets Philanthropic Psychology,” that showed that understanding how donors think of themselves, and making a few simple word changes in appeals, can vastly improve retention of donors. For example, most donors think of themselves as kind, caring, and compassionate. Using words and themes that express these traits in stewardship and appeals helps retain donors and increase giving.
One British charity Shang studied made a couple of simple changes. Instead of saying “Your support means ...” the charity said, “Your kindness and generosity mean ...” Instead of saying, “We supported Jessica and her parents,” the organization said, “It’s kind supporters like you who helped Jessica.”
“Consistently using these traits can make a huge difference,” Shang said. Changing the language in emails welcoming new donors to the organization increased retention by 2 percent and resulted in an additional £1.4 million in revenue over a “few years,” Shang said.
Turnover Is Still a Hot Topic
The Great Resignation isn’t over, and many fundraisers still feel burned out. So, not surprisingly, some organizations were very interested in how to hire and retain development staff. While session presenters had great information, attendees also offered up good tips. When asked what audience members were doing to retain staff, Cameron Turner, director of institutional giving at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, spoke about a change her organization made to improve equity between staff who have to be in the building and those who can sometimes work remotely.
“Most of us are working in a hybrid environment,” Turner said. “We’re a food bank, so for those who don’t have that option, we have now implemented an equity base pay. It’s a percentage that our HR department came up with that calculates the cost of commuting and gas and those types of things, and those who cannot work from home, each month get that equity base pay.”
This was met with a round of applause, as many felt it was a good way to address the staff divide that happens in nonprofits that provide direct services.
For more tidbits from AFP ICON, be sure you’re subscribed to our Fundraising Update newsletter. Next Wednesday’s issue will have additional tips from the conference that we couldn’t fit into this story. Don’t say we didn’t tell you.