How to Get More Money For Your Planned Giving Budget

Male nonprofit executive worried about budget in front of laptop

But they cut my budget this year!

I’ve been in the planned giving marketing business for more than a quarter of a century, and over the years I’ve heard one complaint consistently: “But they cut my budget this year!” It’s the same story, year after year, no matter what the economy’s doing. People blame their inability to “do planned giving” on a lack of money.

Chronically Undervalued

I know there’s an element of truth to it. Planned giving is chronically undervalued and underfunded by boards. And that’s sad — because when planned giving budgets are cut, the long-term growth of the organization suffers.

But we can’t just blame the boards. This chronic lack of money is also your fault, to some degree. What do I mean?

In the same way that it’s your job to “sell” planned giving to your donors, it’s also your job to demonstrate the need for planned giving marketing to your board and administration. Life is a series of challenges and negotiations. If we don’t advocate for ourselves, no one else will. And regardless of whether you think it’s fair, the same is true of your fundraising job.

Remember: The board doesn’t truly get what you do, and they don’t get planned giving. (Some boards do; most don’t.) You need to show them 1) how planned giving benefits the nonprofit long-term, and 2) why your program needs a robust marketing budget.

Believe me, the money is there. And money has a way of showing up when people see the need for it. (Would you ever tell your heart surgeon that his fee is not in your budget?)

Here are a few tips that will help loosen the purse strings. A colleague of mine followed this advice and his marketing budget went from $12,000 to $60,000 a year. Another client got $750,000 approved for consulting fees for the foundation, when there was supposedly “zero dollars” in the budget.

  1. Go in with an outside professional and make a compelling case for your planned giving budget needs. Courtrooms and businesses always have professionals contributing to boost their case. Why not you?
  2. Showcase to your boss and board how successful peer organizations are outpacing your organization. Do this right, and you may find yourself getting a raise.
  3. Get a copy of our Pocket Guide and read a three-minute chapter each night for the next 21 days. One, it’ll cure your insomnia. Two, it’ll increase your supply of one-liners and anecdotes to help the average person (ie: board member) “get” planned giving.
  4. Use the resources and stats below.
  5. Overspend (but don’t go crazy) your budget. If you met or came in below your marketing budget last year, your administration will assume they gave you more than you needed, and you’re likely to get a smaller budget this year. Sad, but true.

If you’re scolded for overspending, borrow this response from Keith Davis, former board chairman of a hospital in Australia: “We didn’t actually overspend our budget. The allocation simply fell short of our expenditure.”

                  As one of our readers, you already know that planned giving is a long game in a world obsessed with annual donations and cash gifts (instant gratification). Now it’s up to you to show the higher-ups the truth: The shortest road to long-term success is a robust planned giving program—with a marketing budget to match!

The shortest road to long-term success is a robust planned giving program—with a marketing budget to match!

Resources to Help Make Your Case

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