My mom still doesn’t know quite exactly what I do for a living.
I made a transition from litigation attorney to planned giving professional 18 years ago, and I still need to explain to my parents what I do for a living (and why).
As a litigator, my day consisted of doing research in a library, writing briefs, conducting depositions and arguing motions in court. Everyone was always fighting, and when cases settled, no one was happy (which, the saying is, is a successful settlement). What a change when I went into planned giving! Going into planned giving allowed me to create a “settlement” (really, the gift) that left everyone happy. Planned giving provides a fundraising system that trades value for value (gift for emotional connection). Both the donor and the organization benefit.
My transition into the field wasn’t easy, but – oh, so worth it! I couldn’t imagine a career in any other area. Years ago when I interviewed a candidate for a junior planned giving associate position she told me “you look so happy with what you do” – I couldn’t think of a better compliment for someone’s choice of career. Don’t we all want to be happy with what we do?
Here are my top 3 reasons why I love my career in planned giving (and you should consider it as well!)
1. Working for a cause you truly believe in
If you are reading this, you are likely a nonprofit professional working with an organization. How passionate are you about the mission? Do you have an internal drive to ensure the organization is financially secure? Have you, or friends or family, been affected by the mission? I ask these questions because when you work in planned giving, you need to really feel the mission. You have to commit to it and be able to relate and communicate that need with your donors. If you really feel connected, and want to make sure the organization is financially secure for the future, planned giving development is the way to do that.
2. You don’t have to be a lawyer
Ok, yes, I am an attorney. And, sure, it helps with the technical details, but you can always find someone at your organization, or a board member or advisor, to help you with that part. And, most gifts are created between the donor and their own advisor. [Besides, you shouldn’t give out tax advice to your donors, even if you are an attorney].
Here is the secret – there are two sides to planned giving: the technical side and the relationship (or fundraising) side. If you have both – that is fantastic. That means you can create a program, speak with your donors, do the marketing and close the gifts, all with the understanding and capability to discuss the tax and income benefits of the gift. But, you know what? If you have solely the relationship, or fundraising, aspect – you can do all of the above, and just perhaps ask or hire some help for the technical aspect, if you even need it (remember: most gift planning is done on the part of the donor, not the organization). If you only have the technical side and not the relationship side, then you can close the gift, but it would be difficult to initially bring those gifts in to be able to be closed. Now, don’t get me wrong, the technical skills are very important, and ideally you want to have both which you can achieve through trainings and courses. Bonus for planned giving fundraising - you get to utilize lots of different skills – I like to say that I am using many different areas of my brain for planned giving – fundraising, marketing, financial and legal. You won’t find this in other areas of development.
3. You enjoy hanging out with older individuals
Yes, you will hear me say all the time that anyone can create a planned gift. It is 100% true – I can find the best gift plan for anyone, no matter their wealth or age. However, the majority of these gifts will be created, and certainly realized, when your donors are older. This is because these individuals are at a stage in life where they are planning around many life events such as retirement, the birth of grandchildren and potential health issues. As a planned giving professional, or a nonprofit professional doing planned giving work, you need to be comfortable discussing life events and listening to stories from the past. Some fundraisers are very comfortable working with older individuals, and truly thrive on it. These fundraisers tend to be great listeners, and have a passion for storytelling (and storytellers).
What about you? If you are involved in planned giving, what do you enjoy about it? If you are considering a career in planned giving, what is stopping you? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know (I love to mentor!)