Welcome to the LACGP Newsletter. This e-newsletter is sent out on a monthly basis. The newsletter provides links to this page. Please see below for the items that appeared in the May 2021 issue.


By Patience Boudreaux, CSPG, CFRE

I first became a volunteer with the Los Angeles Council of Charitable Gift Planners as a speaker at the Western Regional Planned Giving Conference. Ray Watts and I had a session we developed based on our capstone project for the CSPG program titled “Plannual Giving” and being asked to present it at WRPGC was a big deal for us. I had never been to WRPGC – I was, in fact, still a Director of Annual Giving at the time – and the warmth and welcome I felt among this group during that experience affirmed my decision to transition my career into planned giving.

This year, WRPGC 2021 – Meeting the Moment: Philanthropy’s Role in Healing has brought together a range of speakers from across the nation. The Wisdom Wednesday sessions leading up to the full-day conference (May 25-27) experience have built my excitement for both the planned giving insight speakers are bringing and the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion with which we are being encouraged to look at philanthropy (note, these Wisdom Wednesday sessions are all available as recordings for those who register!). After I downloaded the conference app, I had to smile when I saw that my old buddy Ray was going to leading some of the fun networking sessions – while we may not be in the same space, the trivia and cocktail/mocktail competitions feel almost like Stelter’s welcome reception I normally enjoy as the kickoff of this conference.

If you have not registered yet, I encourage you to do so today. Now, all these years later, I find myself both delighted by all the extras that the virtual setting for WRPGC 2021 has made possible and longing to see you all at the Westin South Coast Plaza. Is it too early to share that our next WRPGC will be in person May 25-27, 2022? Mark your calendars!

An Interview with Jay Harvill, Director of Planned Giving at the Methodist Hospital Foundation

LACGP had the privilege of interviewing Jay Harvill, Director of Planned Giving at the Methodist Hospital Foundation. Jay also expertly facilitates the LACGP planned giving mini-roundtable. Today, Jay shares some great insights about the benefits of mentorship.

LACGP: Some long-time members of LACGP have called you the “guru of mentorship.” What makes a good mentor? Is there someone who mentored you early in your career who was especially helpful to you and who you model your own mentoring on?

Jay Harvill: That makes me chuckle! My old friend, John Dickson, would be happy to hear I’m a mentor. When I first got into planned giving, John, this giant of a 6’6” man (and as big a heart, too), took me under his wing and showed me around the Planned Giving Round Table (the original name given to our council) until I was able to fly off on my own. That led to a new level of mentorship with him that, for years, included regular breakfasts to see how I was doing. I made a promise to him that I’d pay his generosity forward when I grew up in the field. John taught me a lot about mentoring, among them never forgetting our beginnings when we were the freshmen. As we connected over the years, John’s mentorship crossed the divide from professional to personal. It reminds me today that mentoring really is getting to know the whole person. His approach was simple, focused and genuine, no science necessary. And, that’s what I try to do. I’m grateful that a number of awesome friendships have come about because of what began as a simple mentor relationship. In short, a good mentor behaves like John did with me.

LACGP: How about today? You have so much experience, but do you still see the need for a mentor at this stage in your career?

Jay Harvill: You bet! It makes me happy to have some great mentors guiding my way (Read: Sometimes keeping me out of trouble). We’ve all become good friends, too. I may have been in gift planning for a while now, but learning never stops. Much of that learning comes from the mentors around me. I get the “E” ticket access to a wealth of experiences one may never have the opportunity to experience otherwise, and I can draw from their collective wisdom. They are great encouragers, too. I can’t imagine doing what I do without them.

LACGP: What should someone seeking a mentor bring the relationship? How can they ensure that it’s a successful partnership?

Jay Harvill: That is simple. There needs to be a two-way street commitment to consistently staying in touch. We are all busy and have the best intentions for follow-through, but life happens. We get occupied with other important things. Maintaining our mentor relationship begins to fall in priority. I just can’t emphasize enough this is precisely when we need the mentor relationship the most – when we’re caught up in the minutiae of whatever, dogpaddling in our work activities. This is where we remind each other of what is critical or important and find our way to a clearer space to make the best decisions. Those outside voices from a mentor or mentee are oftentimes a great lifeline.

LACGP: You’ve run the LACGP mini-roundtable discussion at the council’s general meetings for a while now. Do you see this as part of being a mentor, since many of those who attend the mini-roundtables are new to the field?

Jay Harvill: Facilitating the mini-RT has been so much fun (To Bill Strickland: Are we having fun yet?). The m-RT has been a great place for folks to engage in conversation and learn from each other – those with various levels of experience. Some regular attendees have a decade or more in gift planning, while others are taking their first steps into the development or gift planning field. This blending of experience levels in the m-RT is a perfect environment for all to gain more insight and wisdom. Mentoring unconsciously happens here. We get to know each other in these groups and that sometimes leads to natural relationships and friendships. We all help each other. It’s here where we start building up our circle of influence – those colleagues, mentors, advisors and all others around us that can help when we get stuck. It doesn’t matter what your experience level is, this is a place where we learn, and have fun, too.

LACGP: What type of information are people looking for at the mini-roundtables? Do you get a sense that some people there are looking for a mentor without going through a formal “process” such as the LACGP Mentorship Program?

Jay Harvill: I think people are looking for a conversation. We often find that others in attendance have experienced the same challenges and opportunities. We discover how they navigated and eventually succeeded. We also talk about failures and what we learned from them. We get to ask lots of questions in a safe place. There is no stupid question. People don’t laugh at a question, unless they’re laughing at themselves, too. There’s a dialog going on that often becomes exciting! So, this is just another avenue for us to develop mentorships.

LACGP: Anything you would like to add to this discussion?

Jay Harvill: Absolutely. I’ve had the privilege of mentoring a few colleagues, and have learned from them, too. That enthusiasm, fresh perspectives, outside-the-box thinking and just pure “newness” is awesome to see. It reminds me to keep things simple and focus on what’s most important: the relationship. The technical wiz-bangery may impress a few, but the relationship is key. These colleagues I supposedly mentor are in reality mentoring me. They often remind me to recalibrate and focus on what is most important. One mentee in particular (KF) has provided so much encouragement for me. We check up on each other somewhere between often and occasionally, laugh a lot, share about our recent goofs, and laugh some more. Simply put, I just can’t imagine not having my mentor-mentee friendships. It’s that little bit of mentor magic that keeps me going.

"I’m Leaving You Money." Great! How Can I Make Sure You Won’t Change Your Mind?

By Aaron Levinson, CSPG

You’ve worked so hard--or often it was your predecessor--to secure a bequest. How many meetings and phone calls had to happen to cultivate that donor? Let’s not throw all that away. That would be leaving money on the table.

When I worked in a membership organization, we were always meeting to strategize on how to find new members. Someone on the membership committee once said that we were spending perhaps $1,000 through advertising, open house events, and other activities to find one new member to join. However, it often took a postage stamp to retain a member who otherwise might let that membership lapse at the end of the year.

If only we had mailed an interesting story about the good work we did to these lapsing members. If we invited them with a phone call or sent a personal note about something they might find interesting, maybe they would have kept their membership in good standing for another year. This is especially true when it comes to retaining bequest donors.

Each year, we look at the end of the bequest pipeline to where the money is coming out, after the bequest donor has died and the distributions are being sent. Then we look forward to future distributions from bequest donors who are still alive.

What do you have in that pipeline?

The good news is that nearly 90 percent of people who name a charity in their will or trust do not take that charity out of their plans. How can we keep that number high, or take it even higher? There are many strategies.

Sending something to your donors means you’re thinking about them. If you know a donor is interested in mountain lions, and you see an article about them, clip it out and send it with a note--even if your organization has nothing to do with mountain lions. This thoughtfulness won’t be lost on the donor.

You can send something in so many ways, including through mail, e-mail, social media, even a text. All are ok, but I think there’s nothing like the good old-fashioned handwritten note delivered by postal mail--and a handwritten envelope, too. This is especially true today, since it seems we rarely get anything good by mail anymore.

It’s nice to have a recognition wall for bequest donors and other planned gift donors. They like the recognition. When the wall is built, we can hold a dedication event and invite everyone to see their plaques. We can even have a rededication when we have enough new plaques installed.

If you don’t have a physical space or can’t afford to have a fancy wall, consider creating a virtual wall. It can be a page on your organization’s website, perhaps a digital display in the office, or a video monitor mounted on the lobby wall with the names of members scrolling throughout the day.

Every year (except when there happens to be a pandemic), my organization holds a Legacy Circle recognition luncheon. We invest a lot of money in this event. Notice that I wrote invest. Don’t think of it as spending. We’re investing to make sure that the donors keep us in their estate plans. For some of them, it’s the only time we see them each year.

I think the most important strategy by far for bequest donor retention is personal calls and visits. There is really no substitute. Some donors don’t want calls, some don’t want visits, and some don’t care for either one. But for those who do, it’s probably my favorite part of the job. We really can get to know and become close with our donors.

A lot of development professionals like to visit donors in their homes. Being in someone’s home gives us an opportunity to learn a lot about these friends, from the photos we see to the artwork they have, plaques and awards on display, and how they live--lavishly, frugally, or somewhere in between.

We also can take donors to lunch. I think we can learn a lot about that that way as well, even by which restaurants they like. I have very wealthy donors who meet me at Marie Callender’s and Black Angus, even though they can afford much more. That tells me something about them.

For donors who don’t want to schedule a visit, should we just stop by and claim we were in the neighborhood? I know someone who worked at the Foundation for the Junior Blind. The organization had an herb garden grown by the sight-challenged children. My friend used to take some of the herbs and drive to a donor’s house on the pretense of being nearby. The door-opener is that she thought they would enjoy the herbs grown by the children whom their donations support. A nice move, right?

We might be able to get away with such a pop-in if we have the right item to bring. I’ve called donors saying I was near and asked to drop in, but I haven’t shown up to their door without a call first.

Sometimes, I will call a donor who lives a little further away, an hour’s drive or more, and tell them that next week I have another meeting in their area and would like to stop by and visit (even if I don’t really have another meeting scheduled). That works occasionally. If they already have plans that day, though, you can’t change your little white lie to say, “Oh, I’ll also happen to be there the next day as well.”

Someone told me once that the only thing we are really “selling” our donors is thanks and recognition. I think this is true, and so we must ensure that donors receive what they expect. Keeping donors happy helps keep the nonprofit in their wills and trusts, and the bequest pipeline flowing year after year.

An Interview with Gift Planner Jill Rode, CFRE, Music Academy of the West

Jill came to the Music Academy, as a dedicated planned giving officer, right before the pandemic changed everything. Consequently, she had some of her own changes to make in light of the new world we were all entering into at the time. Let’s get right to the interview.

LACGP: Jill, no doubt you were thrown a pandemic curve ball when you arrived at the Music Academy of the West. What we’re you hoping to first accomplish when you started? What ended up happening?

Jill: This is the first time where I have been able to fully devote myself to planned giving; whereas, prior to coming here when I was at the Zoo or at the YMCA, a small part of my job was to look at the legacy society and confirm the gifts that were previously committed. One of the reasons for working on the legacy society was to get out of the “dark” when it came to learning who our key people were.

When you’re new, you may not know the history or those who have given gifts, so the first thing I did was to audit all of the gifts that had been committed. I made sure that paperwork was in, whether digital or hardcopy. Inevitably I found that some of the gifts committed by donors didn’t come through. Perhaps the donors passed away or changed their minds because we weren’t doing good job with stewardship. Maybe something else happened or maybe something transpired with the family.

It took around six months to figure this out, so during this initial time, I wanted to get a handle on who our members were. Did we have the right paperwork from them? Did we know them? Was our database cleaned up? At the end of the first six months, I was able to know who our legacy givers were so that I could begin developing relationships with the right people.

LACGP: Jill, you mentioned the need to conduct an audit of existing commitments. Can you speak more to that?

Jill: I think that shoring up your commitments is an ongoing process. Whether you’re new to an organization or to planned giving or if you’ve been there for many years, keeping ongoing communication is very important. I will soon be using our survey tool to ask some of those questions and seeing if their plans have changed, especially considering the state of the world right now. Then we’ll send a follow up letter to request updated documentation.

Along with ongoing stewardship, updating commitments for us is an annual process. We’ll ask, “Do you have any changes happening? Are your documents still up to date?” Come twenty or thirty years later, none of us will be here, but If we have that paperwork, then our organizations can continue to steward and make sure those gifts go where they are supposed to go.

LACGP: Were there any challenges with recommitting your donors?

Jill: At first in my career, I realized that reaffirming commitments was a sensitive conversation, but today, people are fairly open to it. Early on, I would have angry phone calls where donors would say, “How dare you ask for such personal information.” But now days, I think people are much more accustomed to sharing, “I left you in my will, I have a great relationship with you. I love you so much that I am fitting you in my estate plan. I’m going to give you the entire estate plan, or I’m fitting in a portion of my estate to go to the Music Academy of the West.” But people are much more open about giving this way than they used to be.

LACGP: I’m encouraged to hear that donors are more open to those types of conversations. Let’s address stewardship for a few moments. Can you help us better understand what stewardship looks like for you?

Jill: We have great stewardship happening at the Music Academy of the West, and a lot of that comes from our summer festival. For eight weeks, students come to our campus from all over the world and are here on full summer scholarships. I can’t even guess how many events we have in our eight-week time period, such as concerts and dinners, etc. Except that 2020 was a pandemic year, and our eight-week festival didn’t happen. So our stewardship is usually focused on meeting donors who come from all over the country and from all over the world. We normally hold our legacy society, our Encore Society, which is a big event for us where young musicians perform. We also have solid recognition for these donors in our publications. But… the pandemic happened, and we weren’t able to do any in person events.

I was new when the Pandemic broke out. I was in the office for three weeks before everything shut down. We were so looking forward to the coming summer festival, because that’s what the Music Academy does. Of course, that didn’t happen, so what were we supposed to do? How do we meet with our Encore Society and engage our prospects?

So, I was on the phone with my headset and calling to connect with our legacy members to let them know about the changes about moving our Festival over to a virtual platform. I was able to meet many of them over the phone which surprised me. People were willing to pick up the phone because most were at home. This led to many wonderful conversations, so I continued to call and engage with them. Fortunately, they were willing to engage and attend virtually. So, we created some more special concerts for our different segments of donors including our Encore Society. We had a wonderful performance and presentation that rewarded our Encore Society for their willingness to engage with us virtually.

Knowing this wouldn’t last forever, we’ve been busy planning for our 2021 Summer event with a contingency plan in place. Our Encore Society likes to spend time together and fellowship with one another, so as much as possible, we want to make that happen. We also want them to be recognized, so we’re sending out some special pins designed by Tiffany. While not every nonprofit may be able to do this, it was less expensive for us to create it with them versus going through Etsy and having it produced that way. But, our Encore Society will hopefully feel the love as we aim to show our appreciation for them. When they come back, we want everyone to see how much this society means to us.

LACGP: Thank you for this insight, Jill. I’m curious, how your folks responded to the idea of attending virtually.

Jill: When calling people last year to have them participate with us virtually, many were not interested saying, “We’ll come back when we can do this in person.” Yet, event this year without being completely certain with how things will look, many have responded more positively because they have missed the connection with our institution and with one another. Most are joining when we provide a virtual opportunity. While I use the phone quite a bit, most are no longer having trouble joining in virtually.

LACGP: Yes, no doubt it took a while for some of your donors to warm up to the idea. It sounds like you have a great legacy society in place. Can you share a little about that?

Jill: I was fortunate to see a well-loved legacy community already in place with the Encore Society. We had 147 members with eight new members, but we also had five drop out because their commitments changed when we did an audit.

I’m looking forward to giving even greater stewardship than before and include them by looking at them as some of our best donors we have ever had. When other development officers are looking to do big things for our major donors, I’m also asking about our legacy donors since many of their promised gifts will be our largest. How do they feel appreciated now?

Our goal is to continue to improve our stewardship this year. We launched our enewsletter this past year as well as our website. Every time I send out an enewsletter, I get a new disclosure. So, we’re continuing to expand that list and reach out to more people. More than ever, our marketing is so important. Sharing planned giving with legacy society as well as your prospects is a great way to see an immediate benefit of new disclosures. Some of our Encore Society donors are not annual donors, so I am also trying to encourage annual gifts from these legacy givers.

LACGP: This has been very helpful, Jill! Thank you for sharing a part of your experience with the Music Academy of the West.