Hello, again, from the AICPA Not-for-Profit Industry Conference in D.C.! Today I’m in a session that better suits my natural inclinations: fundraising. (See yesterday’s post about my maiden voyage into accounting.)

Earlier this spring Abila released our Donor Engagement Study, and one of our key findings was that not tailoring donor communications by age/generation was a huge missed opportunity for fundraisers.

It’s as though Robert Sharpe, presenter for the session titled, “Mission Impossible: Determining the ROI of Planned Giving Programs,” was in our heads. At least three times during his presentation he said the idea of having a donor database sans birthdates is crazypants (my word, not his).

Most legal wills that include a charitable gift, says Sharpe, are written in the person’s late 70s or early 80s. But, if you don’t know your donors’ ages, you don’t know to have those conversations with them at the appropriate time.

So, the first recommendation for a successful planned giving program is to collect your donors’ birthdays.

(If you aren’t sure how to go about that, join the Donor Dozen webinars on Tuesday, July 21 and Wednesday, July 22 to learn tips for collecting important donor data, including birthdays.)

For the sake of conversation,  let’s assume you already have good age data on your donors. Now what? Birthdays in your database alone won’t turn your nonprofit into a planned giving powerhouse. From Sharpe, here are two additional practices your nonprofit can adopt to improve success.

Develop a widows’ relations program. Women typically outlive their husbands and when their husbands pass, they have to rewrite their wills to leave their property to a living heir. On average, widows rewrite their wills 18-24 months after their husbands pass. By focusing your planned giving efforts on this group, you can increase your ROI.

Find fundraisers who enjoy engaging with advanced age donors. For reasons we can speculate on all day, not as much attention is paid to the oldest members of our community. However, if fundraisers are not nurturing relationships with these donors, they are likely to be left out of estate planning. Find a fundraiser, staff, or volunteer, who enjoys the rich stories and conversations your oldest donors can offer, and encourage those fundraisers to help you nurture relationships with your advanced age donors.

Of course, when someone tells you he or she  has included your organization in his or her will, show your appreciation. And, finally, don’t be like the absent nephew who neglects his wealthy aunt while she’s alive, then regrets it when, upon her passing she bequeaths him nothing.