Debunk YOUR Planned Giving Myths

by Marcy Heim on March 24, 2021

It’s Easter Bunny time! While we all are getting older, it’s a choice to get “old.” Eat some peeps, color an egg and sing, Here comes Peter Cottontail at the top of your lungs! Can’t wait!


And while Easter brings flowers and hatching eggs, in these remarkable times many wonder, “What if I die?” and are creating or updating their wills in droves.  For many of your donor “family” including you in their will is a way to bring dignity, meaning and purpose to a life well lived. It is an opportunity to continue to support you as they have during their lifetime, or to support you as they always wanted to, but were unable to in their lifetime. Here’s a sample page to add to your website to help them with a basic bequest. (HERE)

Because you asked for help with this, I hosted a webinar with Tony Martignetti, an attorney that has been starting and growing planned giving programs for small and medium-sized non-profits since 1997. If you weren’t able to attend, contact me and we’ll get you a recording. (

Here are my 15 biggest takeaways from Debunking Planned Giving Myths:

1. By definition, planned gifts are “planned” as part of your retirement or family estate planning.

2. The ideal planned giving donor loves your mission, is 55 or older, and has given to you at any level for a long time. (doesn’t have to be big gifts)

3. 100% of your Board should be expected to put your mission in their will, even if they take it out when they go off the Board.

4. Only 4% of folks who make a bequest change their minds.

5. Most don’t want to share that you are in their will so don’t push it. For every one person who tells you, 7 or 8 more won’t.

6. Donors need 3 things from you – your legal name, your address and your tax ID. Put together a simple side bar and use it everywhere.

7. Even in the largest planned giving programs in hospitals and universities 75% of planned gifts are simple bequests. Keep it simple! You can have a very respectable program only promoting gifts by will.

8. Everybody needs a will, people understand what they are for, and there is no cost to make that gift during their lifetime.

9. To ask for donors to consider a bequest, you need to have been around at least 5 years so donors believe you have staying power.

10. To begin seeking will gifts you need to have a decent number of donors who are 55+ and give year after year after year – even very small amounts. Golf outing donors, gala attendees, theater night patrons don’t count – they give to get something in return.  

11. The average bequest is $35,000. That’s a pretty nice number.

The gift donors love to make

12. Start promoting will gifts on your website. (click here for a sample page) Provide a paragraph about the value and impact a long-term gift will have on your mission. Feature a bequest donor quote, share will wording, tell them to take the sample wording to their lawyer, and share a contact NAME. I think a real person with a name and picture is so much better than info@plannedgiving – who is that? This is part of a sincere relationship with you. How do you get to know “info” better – why even bother trying?  Be real for them.

13. Embed planned giving into your organization – mention it at events, add sidebars in newsletters, mailings, annual reports, and even a line in your signature block.

14. Create a club – best names include something about your organization – say you were founded in 1848 – The 1848 Society. Refrain from asking a donor for proof of the will gift – just put ‘em in the club!

15. Stay in touch – at least annually do something that just says, Thank you, for all of your bequest donors. Care about them, they have treated you like family.

Things are opening up!  I booked my band today for a July show! Wohoo! If you haven’t seen me sing, go here .

Thinking small, isn’t easy or hard. It’s just a habit. A habit with consequences. 

Same for thinking big. So make it a habit to think BIG! And enjoy some peeps!  Hoppy Easter!

Invest in JOY®


Get your New Donor Ducks in a row

by Marcy Heim on March 11, 2021

Spring! Rebirth! New Energy!

New Relationships! New Prospective Givers!

Marcy Evolve 2021

Inspiring Artful Asking from the stage of EVOLVETwenty21 – the National Mobile & TeleDentistry Conference in Orlando – YES!! IN PERSON! Wow! What an eye-opener for me to take in the importance of ORAL Health in your total health! And amazing technology is, indeed, on the dental care horizon.

While many mobile care units are within for-profit ventures, increasingly these mobile units are game-changers for non-profit missions serving seniors and children who have limited access. Plus, these remarkable times have actually made mobile care SAFER than traditional clinics. 

Ducks in a row

For these mobile units and perhaps YOUR mission, how do we get our ducks in a row to start, or grow, our group of givers?

Have you ever really watched a momma duck? There was one in the pond at my convention Marriott. I watched her for a long time.  Do you know what? She takes off when one baby duck is by her and the rest scramble along.  I am NOT making this up.  They are NOT in a row! So don’t wait to get all your ducks in a row. BEGIN with one.

Here are 10 BASIC Steps to bringing in new potential givers to your mission.


That first duck needs to be your WHY?  Clearly the dental hygienists know exactly why they are pushing mobile care and what it means for the overall health of seniors and kids.  (The second I get back home I am going to get an appointment!)

If you are looking to begin or grow a base of supporters consider who else cares, values and believes in your WHY like you do and are in your service area. 

  1. People with senior parents or relatives
  2. People with children
  3. Community leaders who want to foster strong communities
  4. Business leaders who want a healthy workforce
  5. People who had a serious dental health issue solved and they are grateful.
  6. Folks that ‘get’ oral health.
  7. All of the above who believe everyone should get good oral care.
  8. Everyone who is part of the profession – certainly they should be key supporters.
  9. Others I have missed???


Did you know that 80% of the $450 Billion given in 2019 came from individuals?  Only 5% came from corporations.  Often corporations have corporate giving committees or employee groups that weigh in on the corporation’s philanthropy – and this is just fine – but that means the leadership may have additional or different philanthropic goals than their own company.  Often when I begin working with a group they name every business up and down Main Street.  Wrong approach. Focus on individuals.

Think of folks with the ability to give AND who you feel believe in what you are trying to do.  From here get a small group of locals who really know people to help you determine who would be the best fit for your mission. You can hire or do research, but that’s best when you have hundreds of names to wade through.  In established non-profits there will already be an existing data base of people that support you. If you are just starting and you don’t have alumni, donors and friends yet, assemble as many names as you can think of who share a passion for your mission.


GIVE yourself.  Start a fund at the local community foundation, work with a non-profit partner, or create your own 501c3 (this is some work so you may wish to begin with a partner).  GIVE yourself – and everyone involved – give and give generously–FIRST. Bluntly, if you don’t believe in what you are doing enough to lead the way with your giving why should anyone else give? No, time doesn’t replace dollars. If you want to reap dollars you must sow dollars.


Remember, it’s not about the money – but what the money does – really does – so in our example – it gives those who need help getting oral care the gift of better overall heath, perhaps pain-free eating and a lovely smile. Begin the conversations by getting in touch with those you feel have the deepest interest in having mobile dentistry and a strong ability to give.  It is best if someone who knows the person can connect you, but if not, reach out and share that you are interested in providing mobile dental care and would appreciate a few minutes to get their ideas about your plans – NOT MONEY. If they ask if you are “after money” explain that eventually you want to make this project happen but right now you are really collecting insights and advice. You can ask for a conversation – in person, zoom or whatever using my 3-sentence ask. ( or low cost self-paced online program here). Don’t get into it until you are BOTH ready to have the conversation.


Some of your folks will be interested. Many will have good ideas. SHUT UP and listen. They should do 70% of the talking during your visit.  Don’t vomit all of your information over them or give them a big printed brochure.  Respect that they have something to contribute in terms of advice and ideas.  Before you leave, set up the next time you will get together to continue the conversation.


Have many conversations – and get smarter on how the resources for your project will be generated.  Create a simple one-pager that gives the key messages. Perhaps supplement this with a sheet of FAQ’s (frequently asked questions) you create from your conversations.  Try to have your first gift be significant – 30% of what you are trying to raise.  Then talk to the next folks who were interested and have money they could invest to provide two or three additional larger gifts.  Don’t take the total and say, “We need $100,000 so that’s 10 $10,000 gifts.” Don’t raise a bunch of little gifts – you’ll never get to your goal.


Write out Marcy’s 3-sentence ask for money for each of these next visits ( . From your conversations you should now know #1 Why you are asking them, #2 That they understand the project’s importance and agree, and #3 that they are willing to consider a gift.  Set up an appointment to present your artful ask. If you can’t write it, you’re not ready to ask for money! Don’t propose on the first date. These relationships take time – and it’s the DONOR’s timeline – not yours.


Be ready to listen for additional points they need to understand better.  Why does the van cost so much? They are really asking, “Will my gift make a difference?” Be prepared with stories of the good success mobile clinics have had.  Perhaps have them visit a mobile clinic or talk to someone who was helped.  Be sure you set up another specific time to finalize their giving plans.


Yes, No, Maybe.  Speak your artful Ask. Take the time they need to feel right about investing.  It is THEIR timeline – not yours.


YES! They have agreed to give!  NOW….THANK THEM.  And continue to stay in touch with them to keep them up-to-date on how the fundraising and the mobile dental clinic is doing.  IF you give back to them sincere appreciation and clear information about what their giving has made happen – you will find they are eager to give again…and treasure you and how you helped them do good in the world.

Dental Ask 2021

Many of you are professional fundraisers who use sophisticated systems and processes to work with large numbers of donors.  But at the core of what we do is that magical match between the people who are determined to do good in the world and those who share our care and are inspired by our dream enough to partner with us. It’s just the best job ever!

To my many new friends in the mobile dentistry arena remember, big donors love big visions.  Be bold, be determined, be clear and be-lieve!  I believe in you and your opportunities for success.

For the rest of you—experienced, confident, bold, kind, respective and raising so much money, I hope this simply review brought you back to your, “Why” and maybe reduced some of that “How” stress that our work likes to throw on us. 

Smile and Shine!

Invest in JOY®


Luv the Flub

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Have you ever screwed up? Have you ever failed? Of course you have. And it can be terrifying. Will you be forgiven? Will you lose your job? Can this be fixed? As you head into March and the start of year two of these remarkable times, you need to be growing major giving relationships, hosting […]

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Roses are Red

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Script for sending Valentine’s love! It’s tough to play Euchre with only 3…almost impossible, in fact. Bluntly then, when someone dies you generally replace the “couple” with another “couple.”  I mean, it takes 4 to play the card game.  And so begins the challenging, and lonely, journey of being just one. And left out. As […]

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Better late than never

January 27, 2021

Have you ever said, “Better late than never?” It’s a phrase that’s been around forever. How you say it determines how it impacts you.  Let’s look at an example. I’m continuing to send out my holiday letters and probably will into February. I could look at it as an obligation – people sent me cards […]

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Ready for a new beginning?

January 13, 2021

Happy New Year! Did you stay awake until midnight on New Year’s Eve? I sure did! Sang Auld Lang Syne – you can see it here – silly to be sure. The song has been around since 1711 and means ‘For the sake of old times.’  It is a long song about two friends catching up over […]

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Use the Power of 80/20 Right Now!

December 9, 2020

Whew! December 2020! You are in that crazy, exhilarating year-end time. Please don’t forget that I appreciate you! And, what you do to give your donors the chance to invest in your mission! We talk about major gifts transforming our organizations…think about it. Really your donors are transformed by giving to you! What noble work! Ok […]

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Foster Thanksgiving Every Day

November 23, 2020

Whenever, or if, you celebrate a formal Thanksgiving Day, you have the responsibility…and the give thanks EVERY day. But watch your words! First, some definitions. Being thankful often implies you are acknowledging your thanks for something that someone has given you, or done for you. This can be a gift or holding open the […]

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Being your best for year-end success is in a politics-free zone

November 11, 2020

I want 2020 to be a good year for you! It’s never about the circumstances – it’s always about how we REACT to those circumstances – and that is ALWAYS our choice. Nelson Mandela thrived 27 years of unbroken incarceration by managing his thoughts. Period. You will get through 2020, and you will THRIVE! Period. Now […]

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The secret to pivoting – Part I

October 28, 2020

PIVOT – Marcy Style – Part 1 Today’s answer for everything…”just pivot.” Just how do you pivot to jump-start fundraising and life growth? Ever seen a pivot? My first image is that marvelous quarter-mile long, spider-like metal creature that rolls over 100 acres of corn, onions, wheat or other crops spraying water. The center-pivot allows […]

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