Bruce Bigelow in Partnership for Philanthropic Planning [PPP]

Posted on June 9th, 2015

A Must-Read: Steve Meyers on Personalized Philanthropy
Posted on May 28, 2015; Reviewed by Bruce Bigelow

“Should result in bigger and better gifts, in
more engaged donors, and in richer relationships over many years."

Personalized philanthropy is the fundamental principle of Steve Meyers’ new book, Personalized Philanthropy—Crash the Fundraising Matrix (CharityChannel Press).

As he so aptly suggests, just as holistic medicine has moved to treat the entire person over a lifetime, so should holistic philanthropy characterize the new paradigm of charitable fundraising. Steve encourages us to move beyond transactional fundraising, in which we focus on the institutional needs of the moment, to a process in which we engage our donors in building a life plan for their philanthropic aspirations. We should move, he posits, from fundraising as negotiation to fundraising as collaboration, in which the donor is a partner in an on-going, sometimes unpredictable but fully organic process.

Steve presents us with three new ways of thinking about fundraising, all of which should result in bigger and better gifts, in more engaged donors, and in richer relationships over many years.

· First, he suggests a new organizational paradigm, in which all fundraising staff are engaged with donors and the traditional silos of annual fund, major gifts and planned giving, should no longer determine who acts and how we interact with donors. All members of the development staff should see their associations with donors as part of the evolving life-long process; everyone should understand the on-going conversation with the donor; and everyone should be aware enough of the range of giving opportunities (even though the technical aspects of some of those options may remain the purview of experts) to keep the donor conversation going over time.

· Second, he calls us to adopt new processes, especially in the ways we count, report, and acknowledge gift commitments. When Steve and I served together on the PPP Task Force on Counting and Reporting Gifts, we, along with our colleagues from around the country, developed a new perspective on counting that focused on the donor and on building transparency into the reporting process. Steve views this new counting process as so fundamental to his new ways of thinking that he reproduces the entire PPP report as an appendix to his narrative. More and more, this new paradigm has come to characterize fundraising campaigns, and Steve’s continued eloquent focus will move the process still further toward universal acceptance.

· Finally, he gives us a set of three new and quite flexible techniques, his “killer apps." These new ways of thinking about donor commitments allow us as fundraisers to work with donors in new ways, to help donors to realize their long-term objectives even as we work with short-term resource limitations. These “apps" are by no means exhaustive, but they demonstrate in concrete and easy to understand ways how personalized philanthropy can work for the betterment of all.

Steve gives us practical tools and a clear conceptual model. His book is, as a result, both an inspiration and a guidebook. His suggestions build on his own significant experience and his understanding of the new trends in charitable fundraising. Even though my own philosophical approach to fundraising closely mirrors Steve’s, he reminds me of why I find myself drawn to personalized philanthropy and how I can enhance the relationships with donors. We can all learn from his insights, and in the process become more effective fundraisers and build more meaningful relationships with our donors.

About the Author:
Bruce Bigelow is founding partner of Charitable Development Consulting, LLC, and a leader in the gift planning profession for 30+ years. He was a co-founder and president of the Chesapeake Planned Giving Council. He has served as NCPG (now PPP) conference chair and chair of the Research Committee. He has supervised two national gift planning research efforts. Bigelow was chair and chief author of PPP’s Guidelines for Counting and Reporting Charitable Gifts. ­­

FRDNY: Going to NY. Even if I have to walk.

Posted on May 18th, 2015

Well, I been East. And I’ve been out West. But I'm not going to rest, till I get to New York.
Fundraising Day in New York! Even if you have to walk.
View the amazing program line-up for June 12th … and register today.
The Advanced Fundraising track is worth a special look. Here’s my session.
You’ll Learn To:
  • Profile four donors you encounter every day to better fine tune and personalize your gift designs
  • Apply three killer apps of personalized gift design that can help you raise more money
  • Revise your definition of philanthropy to one that works for both fundraisers and donors

Personalized Philanthropy: Crash the Fundraising Matrix
Engaging donors for impact and recognition now.
We can show you how.

Use order code personalized-philanthropy for a 25% discount and free shipping

Matrix crashing at FRDNY: in by 9/out by 5

Posted on May 13th, 2015

Matrix crashed: in by 9/out by 5

Please join me at

Fundraising Day in New York 2015

Learn about Fundraising Day in New York 2015. View now>

It's a privilege and a genuine hoot to be presenting in the advanced track of AFP's fabulous FRDNY!

Here's the program.

Advanced Fundraising Track

Personalized Philanthropy: Crash Your Fundraising Matrix
Donors seeing the term “personalized philanthropy" might wonder, “What are they talking about? Isn’t ALL philanthropy was personalized." But the truth is this is not the case. Steve Meyers shows you how conventional best practices of the fundraising matrix are hobbling philanthropy and introduces you to some new ideas on how to restore creativity to your own gift practice as a gift officer, advisor or philanthropist.
You’ll Learn To:
  • Profile four donors you encounter every day to better fine tune and personalize your gift designs
  • Apply three killer apps of personalized gift design that can help you raise more money
  • Revise your definition of philanthropy to one that works for both fundraisers and donors
Speaker:Steven L. Meyers, Ph.D., Vice President, Center for Personalized Philanthropy, American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science

AFP's “Advancing Philanthropy” Discovers Grail of Fundraising

Posted on April 11th, 2015

The grail of fundraising is exactly this chaining together of donors’ current and future gifts and capacities for giving in such a way that their overall philanthropic program not only supports charitable organizations’ current needs but also secures the future needs of the organizations they care most about.

Myth-Busted - AFP’s Spring 2015 Edition of Advancing Philanthropy asked “Isn't all philanthropy personalized?" That is what most people think, but it is usually not the case. Personalized Philanthropy: Crash the Fundraising Matrix busts this myth and a host of other “best practices" of conventional fundraising. If you’re an AFP-er, you can find it online here on page 40, or if not, download the pdf after the jump. It's a great primer on personalized philanthropy.

Why Philanthropy Should Matter to Advisors, by Tim Belber

Posted on April 9th, 2015

Four essential conversations advisors should be having with clients ASAP
[I am delighted to share Tim’s essay, which I believe is destined to become a classic. It first appeared on CEG Elite Advisor Reports. See the original online here. ~Steve Meyers]
By Timothy Belber

Key Takeaways:

  • Many advisors greatly underestimate their clients’ interest in philanthropy.
  • Studies show less than half of HNW clients are satisfied with the philanthropic conversations they have with advisors.
  • Helping clients with philanthropic planning gives you an emotional connection with current (and future) generations that goes far beyond traditional tax, investing and insurance. It can also help you retain AUM.

To many advisors, philanthropy is at best a tax strategy or a "check off the box" conversation. It should be far more important to advisors. It certainly is to high-net-worth (HNW) families. As The Philanthropic Initiative 2013 Study on the Philanthropic Conversation found:

Advisors and clients disagree about the focus of their philanthropic conversations. Advisors believe their philanthropic discussions are equally balanced between their clients’ personal goals/interests and technical topics, but most HNW consumers say their advisors primarily focus on the technical aspects of giving, including tax consequences. HNW consumers want advisors to adopt a more balanced approach, focusing on both their personal passions/charitable interests and technical topics. Less than half of HNW consumers are fully satisfied with the philanthropic conversations they have with advisors, likely influenced by this disparity in advisor focus and client desires.

I can tell you from experience that creating a more satisfying experience with families around philanthropy generates real benefits for financial advisors. First, you are connecting with your clients at an emotional level far beyond the traditional tax/investing/insurance premiums level. Second, being involved in true family philanthropy creates the opportunity to get to know and work with the coming generations. Done correctly, a family philanthropy program can be empowering for all family members. Third, as you become involved with your client’s philanthropic interests you will find yourself meeting, on a very favorable nontechnical basis, other families similar to your client. Last, creative philanthropy, as we’ll see, can actually help you retain AUM or implement other financial strategies.

Four essential conversations

How does it start? I have found four conversations useful in helping families think about philanthropy.

1. The Legacy Conversation
Legacy is a word that means different things to different people. The definition I use with clients is simple:

What do you want (your children/grandchildren/someone) to feel, think and say when they hear your name?

That leads to the next questions:

How does your current approach to philanthropy support your Legacy Statement? Should we explore ways to better align those two?

2. The Gratitude Conversation
I often hear statements such as “My children/grandchildren don’t appreciate what they have!" or “I wish my children were more grateful for what I have given them."

In Strangers in Paradise, Dr. James Grubman lays out an interesting reason that so many wealth earners make this complaint: It’s for the same reason I cannot appreciate the freedoms of living in the United States nearly as much as someone who emigrates here from Cuba or North Korea does.

Children (and often grandchildren) of wealth holders do not appreciate what they have for the very same reason we do not appreciate so many things in life: We are born into them.

If you were born in the United States, or in almost any modern country, you take things like electricity, plumbing and the telephone for granted. You have probably had them for your entire life. On the other hand, someone who emigrates from a small remote village in Africa to the United States will marvel at the flush toilet. He or she will look at you and me and say, “You don’t appreciate what you have!"

Family philanthropy can be a way of bringing gratitude to life. A simple gratitude exercise (name three things you are grateful for today) followed by a conversation about how you can express that gratitude through philanthropy is an eye-opening experience for families.

3. The Sustainability Conversation
HNW families enjoy life in many different ways. Being mindful of what it takes to have and sustain that world is another entry point into meaningful family philanthropy. The opening question is, "What about your world today do you want your family to enjoy for future generations?" This is followed by the questions, "Have you ever considered what it will take to sustain that?" and "Have you discussed this with your children?"

Real-world example

The best example I have seen is a family vacation home in a ski resort community. Most families are not mindful of what it takes for them to fly in, enjoy the mountain, eat great food and have an overall wonderful experience. It requires a lot of people who also want good housing, educational opportunities for their children and good health care. Keeping the environment of the mountain pristine is also critical to the experience. Sustaining the family’s overall mountain experience for coming generations requires a commitment from the family to support organizations in the resort community, such as a local scholarship foundation or various environmental philanthropies. I’ve seen families base most of their philanthropic giving around this idea because they see philanthropy as more of a two-way street with returns flowing back to them instead of the old one-way street benefiting the charity alone.

4. The Preparing-Heirs Conversation
It is often a wake-up call for wealth owners when you ask them what is being done to prepare their heirs to receive assets. Philanthropy offers an opportunity to ease into the bigger conversations around wealth and its role in the lives of family members. It can also help restore and support family relationships.

Personalized Philanthropy
In his new book, Personalized Philanthropy and the Four Donors, Dr. Steve Meyers outlines several new approaches to creating impactful philanthropy based on donor goals rather than institutional needs. Having a grasp of his concepts can lead to great results for advisors, donors and charities. Here is a quick example from my own experiences (with names changed).

I met with Pete, a longtime client, to discuss the agenda for our next family meeting. The primary topic was philanthropy and understanding how you uncover your own philanthropic capacity. This was a good-size family: parents (mid 60s), three married children and ten grandchildren. They had a significant family net worth in the range of $750M, mostly illiquid with good cash flow. They had a liquidity event on the horizon, but not anytime soon. I’ve done planning, education, life insurance and a variety of things for them over the past 15 years.

After reviewing my proposed agenda, I asked the family patriarch, Pete, what his current thoughts on philanthropy were. He said one of his dreams was to endow a chair at his alma mater, a great engineering school. I asked what that required, and he replied it would take between $1.5 million and $5 million, depending on the chair. Prior to learning about Dr. Meyers’ ideas, my response would have been that we should add that sum into how we plan for the liquidity event.

But I asked Pete if he was familiar with the “spend rate" on endowments. He said he was and that he understood it to be between 4 percent and 5 percent. I was surprised he knew about spend rate, and he commented it was because of the number of boards he sits on. So I laid out the idea of a virtual endowment with annual gifts of $60,000 to $70,000, followed by a "completion gift" from the liquidity event or from his estate—all formalized in a “pledge agreement."

Pete loved the idea and said it would give him “great joy" to be able to see a chair from his family sooner rather than later. He was able to hold onto the principal in an investment account while getting the satisfaction, impact and recognition he desired.

Pete is setting up lunch for the foundation president and me to talk about the power of alternative strategies to improve giving and donor satisfaction. He also wants to talk about some of the other causes he is involved with to see how I may be able to help donors to those causes.

To me, this underscores the importance of financial planners, estate planners and other family advisors gaining an understanding of family philanthropy in general and personalized philanthropy in particular. It is putting me in front of the families I want to talk to and is helping important causes sustain the vital work they do.

About the Author

Tim Belber, founder and principal of The Alchemia Group in Denver, focuses his practice on helping self-made families align the power of their financial assets with their long-term goals for flourishing as individuals and families across generations. Tim has degrees from the Wharton School and Seton Hall University School of Law and is an Accredited Estate Planner (AEP®). He is the author of the forthcoming book, The Middle Way: Using Balance to Create Successful Family Wealth Transition Plans.

There's more on personalized philanthropy ... See the article online here

Partner and Monetize: Staging Your Gift with Personalized Philanthropy (you really should read this)

Posted on April 5th, 2015

The case Phil Cubeta makes for advisors to look into Personalized Philanthropy begins with self-interest (AUM) … and goes well beyond.

Why Charitable Gifts of Non-cash Assets- The Business Case for Investment Advisors

Philanthropy and AUM

Often investment advisors are held back in serving the client's philanthropy by the fear, partly justified, that the gifts to charity, if significant, will come at the expense of assets under management. As discussed in a prior post, however, we are on the cusp of a major historical opportunity to help Boomer business owners in transition from success to significance, and also greatly increase and retain assets under management.

The Grail Challenge: Go "Slightly Viral"

Posted on March 28th, 2015

To go just “slightly viral" is our loftiest goal. Personalized Philanthropy will never be a mass phenomena, but many donors would embrace the grail challenge to have their impact and recognition start now, if they only knew they could. If you have read Personalized Philanthropy, please make your voice heard by writing a review or comment.

Embrace the challenge
If you work in the fundraising software industry, the challenge is to bring the complete donor alive - the institutional-focus and the donor-focus. If you’re a gift officer, the challenge is to bring creativity back to your practice. If you are a financial or estate officer, your challenge is to go beyond the convention in your industry and “to do stuff," as the cleaned-up version has it. And if you’re a philanthropist, your challenge is simply to start it up, now.

Personalized Philanthropy: Crash the Fundraising Matrix

Blue Screen

Posted on March 8th, 2015

It’s Fundraising’s Blue Screen of Death
Why Bother to Crash Your Matrix?
As Morpheus says to Neo in the first episode of The Matrix,
The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us . . . . Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.
But don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are powerless to act.
You can learn and act!
When you have crashed your matrix, you can become a boundary-spanning gift officer. You can help lead your development office towards a holistic, donor-focused philanthropy system. You can learn to:
  • Rise above the culture war between institution-focused and donor-focused fundraising.
  • Design and shape gifts to mesh compelling interests with compelling need.
  • Deploy personalized philanthropy's three killer apps for good
  • Realize the holy grail of fundraising: immediate donor impact, lifetime recognition and satisfaction
  • Structure engagements utilizing a personalized gift design process to move beyond conventional solicitations.
  • Make sense of your numbers for the people who count.
  • Renew creativity in your own gift planning practice and help lead your development team to donor-focused giving
Just one donor’s excitement about this new way to give-with-impact-now can spark the change and be the catalyst for organization-wide awakening.
Buyer Beware: Throughout your reading you’ll have to keep in mind that it is somewhat inevitable that this book is as much bio as it is info. I hope you will enjoy this book and use it to crash through your own fundraising Matrix. It’s not so difficult. You begin with yourself.

Personalized Philanthropy: Crash the Fundraising Matrix

Matrix has landed!

Posted on March 2nd, 2015

Using a metaphor of an imprisoning Matrix—the typical development office with its goals and deadlines—Steve Meyers has finally broken through the linguistic and strategic logjam to make sense of connecting donor and charities in a way that will, and already does at some organizations, change the way money is raised.
Personalized Philanthropy: Crash the Fundraising Matrix
Engaging donors for impact and recognition now.
We can show you how.
Charity Channel
Use Order code personalized-philanthropy for a 25% discount and free shipping

Everyone has a plan, until they are punched in the face

Posted on February 19th, 2015

What do donors have in common with Mike Tyson? What advice from donors do advisors frequently overlook? Investigate deep thoughts such as these, in the Three Pillars of Personalized Philanthropy.

Steven Meyers

Personalized Philanthropy. For both fundraisers and philanthropists. When we say we want to get it right, what do we mean? “The right gift, for the right purpose, for the right donor.” It's about innovative donor-focused, individually-tailored giving strategies -- new gift applications that combine current and future gifts, so that donors can create a lasting legacy where recognition and impact begin now. To make miracles happen at charitable organizations close to their hearts. ~Steven L. Meyers, Ph.D., Founder, Personalized Philanthropy