CGP Conference 2023 Takeaways: Stewardship

Posted by askirvin on Jan 18, 2024 01:06:42 PM

By: Barbara Yeager

This year’s CGP Conference included sessions to support almost all 16 National Standards for Gift Planning Success, including Standard 14, which specifies that best-practice gift planning programs have “a robust, well-executed stewardship plan across all lines of fundraising focused on engaging donors in a meaningful way, building long-term donor relationships and maintaining a high donor retention rate.”

People who came to Chicago with the intention of improving their stewardship efforts left with a lot of practical advice. If you missed the conference, or just missed these speakers, all of them will be featured in the 2024 CGP Webinar Series.

Making the Case

Just before the pandemic upended work for almost everyone, the Giving USA Foundation released Leaving a Legacy: A New Look at Today’s Planned Giving Donors, a survey of more than 900 planned gift donors supplemented by 40 follow-up interviews. At the conference, Joe Bull dusted off that report and identified 13 findings that gift planners can take action on, including several to help make the case for your investment in long-term stewardship.

  • Nearly 80% of the respondents to the GUSAF survey had their first will in place prior to the age of 60. The average age for the initial inclusion of a charitable gift was 53. 
  • Only 12% of the respondents had not updated their original will. Of those who reported making a change, the highest percentage of respondents (20%) stated that they had changed their wills three times while 19% had changed it twice and around 17% only once. 

The most frequent motivation for will updates (30% of respondents) was an increase in assets. 

Clearly, there are reasons to stay in contact with people who have notified you of their bequest intention. The survey identified some gaps between the relatively modest stewardship that donors expect, and what they report they’ve received. When capacity is an issue, it’s important to be sure donors are getting the follow-up they want, and not more (and certainly not less).

Stewardship: Desired vs. Actual

Type of Recognition



Included in list of legacy donors



I do not want any recognition



Membership in a legacy society




Personalized contact



A dinner or other public event



Receive exclusive communications



Interviewed for a newsletter/magazine




Making Contact

Learning what kind of recognition is meaningful for each donor is a great reason to make contact. In his conference session, Jason Shuba offered a five-step process for navigating a conversation to reach that understanding. His paper includes discussion prompts for each step.

  1. Before the conversation: review the booked estate gift in your CRM and other files.
  2. Assess how the donor feels about previous and current stewardship efforts.
  3. Find out if the gift is still active and accurate in the donor's plans.
  4. Remedy any issues that need attention within the gift.
  5. Inquire if the donor is interested in seeing the gift’s impact during life.

Creating Community

The GUSAF study found that legacy societies are a benefit that many donors do value. In fact, the legacy society IS the planned giving program from a donor’s point of view. At the conference Michael George laid out a plan for launching a legacy society that focuses stewardship efforts on relationships rather than repeat asks. The lead-up to the launch includes these prerequisites:

  • Start with your board. Before you go public, 100% of your current board ideally commits to some type of planned gift. (They can agree "in principle," as it takes time to thoughtfully include an org in an estate plan). This type of commitment becomes something prospective board members will learn about before they join.

  • Identify a champion. Try to have at least one person who is willing to share the story about why your organization is so important that they wanted to be a part of it both now and after they are gone.

  • Create a class. Consider inviting a group of "charter members" to tell you of a commitment before the launch.

  • Try to associate the launch with something else that reinforces your brand – avoid making it a random date!

Click here to learn more about these webinars—and others in the 2024 series--and register to attend.

If you have a great idea for a session at the 2024 conference in Orlando, the Call for Presentations will be online in February.

Topics: CGP Conference