Viken Mikaelian

Tell Your Heart Surgeon to Go Away

Viken Mikaelian  

Money has a way of showing up when people see the need for it.

In my entire career in the planned giving business, I have consistently heard, “…but my budget has been cut back this year.” It’s the same story every year, no matter what the economy’s doing.

It’s sad, because when planned giving budgets are cut, the long-term growth of the organization suffers. The key word here is “long-term.” You get it, but most do not. Or they get it on an intellectual level but don’t internalize it.

But it is also your fault.

If your administration does not realize the importance of planned giving. Your job is to explain it to them.

Believe me, the money is there—and it shows up when people understand the need. Would you ever tell your heart surgeon that his fee is not in your budget?

Here are a few tips to loosen the purse strings. A colleague of mine followed this advice and his 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 there 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?
  1. Showcase to your boss and board how successful peer organizations are outpacing their organization. Do this right, and you may find yourself getting a raise.
  1. Get a copy of our Pocket Guide and read a three-minute chapter a 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 “get” planned giving.
  1. Overspend your budget. If you met or came in below your 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.”

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