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 March 2021 issue.

Top Five Reasons to Attend the Western Regional Planned Giving Conference 2021

By Carí Jackson Lewis

On behalf of my Conference co-chair, Kimberley Valentine, myself, and the entire Los Angeles Council of Charitable Gift Planners leadership, we are pleased to invite you to (virtually) join us on May 25-27, 2021 at the 2021 Western Regional Planned Giving Conference (WRPGC). 

In developing this year’s program agenda, we listened closely to the feedback from our community of charitable gift planners as we reflected upon the sobering events of the past year: the cascading crises of the lives lost and impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, the racial reckoning triggered by the brutal murder of George Floyd, a fractured political system and -- despite soaring hunger, homelessness and economic hardship due to the loss of millions of jobs -- a booming stock market. Donors stepped up to the plate with generous crisis philanthropy grants, but many nonprofits are still struggling to meet the needs of their constituents, both now and for the foreseeable future.

In response, we are proud to present a robust program with inclusion, diversity, equity, and access at the heart of our sessions and conversation, in addition to our trademark planned giving educational content. This year's conference is entitled "Meeting the Moment: Philanthropy's Role in Healing."  We have worked very hard to curate a powerful educational and community-building experience over the course of the conference beginning on April 21, 2021 (more on that below) and ending in a two and a half-day, high-octane showcase on May 25-27, 2021, uniting charitable gift planners, lawyers, wealth managers, financial institutions, professional education representatives, academics, industry specialists, philanthropic consultants, and allied professionals from across the country.

Besides providing validation for all of my and Kimberley’s blood, sweat and tears in putting this conference together, here are our top five reasons why you should attend WRPGC 2021:

  1. Turning a Racial Justice Lens on Philanthropy: This is the season, and now is the time, to have the courageous conversations needed to dismantle racism in philanthropy: in recruitment, retention and advancement to grantmaking and partnership; in board membership and investment management to legal advice and procurement; and in donor prospecting and outreach to legacy planning, marketing and event management.  If we come together and are intentional, motivated, strategic, determined and inclusive, the entire charitable gift planning field will benefit.  At WRPGC 2021, experts and attendees will be encouraged to take part in passionate and enthusiastic discussions about justice, opportunity, community and equity, in rigorously solutions-focused and forward-looking ways.  With a glossary for newcomers and open hearts for all, WRPGC 2021 attendees will leave the conference with the language and the framing needed to continue these discussions and reflect on their own personal journeys toward racial justice at home, at work and in our world.

  2. Engagement with Subject-Matter Experts: From opening keynote speakers Professor Tyrone McKinley Freeman, Ph.D. (Eli Lilly School of Philanthropy and author of “Madam C. J. Walker’s Gospel of Giving - Black Women’s Philanthropy during Jim Crow”), Vu Le (NonprofitAF blogger, blunt and provocative nonprofit thought leader, public speaker and former Executive Director of RVC, nonprofit in Seattle that promotes social justice by developing leaders of color, strengthening organizations led by communities of color, and fostering collaboration between diverse communities), Amy Florian (award-winning author, speaker and CEO, Corgenius, a company focused on training professionals to build strong relationships with clients through losses and transitions of life) to closing keynote speaker, diversity and organizational behavior expert Professor Laura Morgan Roberts, Ph.D. (University of Virginia Darden School of Business and CEO, Alignment Quest), and with forty other panelists from law firms, community foundations, banks, nonprofits, corporations, universities and more, our attendees will have the opportunity to learn from, and be inspired by, some of the most skilled practitioners in their fields. Gaining cutting-edge tax planning, charitable gift planning and DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) insights from industry experts while exploring the top industry trends, attendees will learn best practices, obtain educational materials, and acquire new skills to bring back and share with their workplaces.

  3. “Wisdom Wednesdays”: New for WRPGC 2021, introducing our five pre-conference sessions called “Wisdom Wednesdays”!  This diverse, can’t-miss group of presentations kicks off on April 21, 2021 with a “Profile in Philanthropy” fireside chat with legendary grant rainmaker and social justice advocate Faye Washington, the CEO of the YWCA Los Angeles and a 2021 Mackenzie Scott Grant Awardee, and ends with nonprofit tax, estate and trust lawyer “Los Angeles SuperLawyer” Reynolds Cafferata, of Rodriguez, Horii, Choi & Cafferata LLP. We don’t want to give away all of our secrets here, but we are thrilled that these dynamic speakers are collaborating with us to present this important content for our audience in the lead-up to our Conference dates. This five-week series provides even more value to our attendees, by allowing registrants to watch these recorded sessions later (where available).

  4. The Social Network: WRPGC 2021 has been designed to create multiple virtual opportunities for our attendees to expand their networks and reunite with colleagues and friends. Attendees can engage with speakers in Q&A sessions and interact with other attendees to exchange ideas, ask questions and make connections. Each personal interaction adds richness and depth to the conference experience. WRPGC attendees have always enjoyed spending time together in community (like a family reunion), and we believe this year’s conference will be no different. By being purposeful about networking, attendees can build up their professional profiles and reputation and potentially open doors to career opportunities, research and program collaboration, and enhanced speaking and business opportunities.  To facilitate this, all attendees will receive the attendee list to promote relationship-building long after WRPGC 2021 ends.

  5. Great Value: WRPGC 2021’s virtual format means cost and time savings for attendees, who will learn from diverse speakers from all over the country – all without paying hotel or travel expenses. In addition to being a more environmentally friendly option, it is more accessible to attendees who might have faced barriers in attending an in-person conference. Attendees now are able to utilize the device that works best for them and create the most comfortable atmosphere for accessing and experiencing the conference. Finally, WRPGC 2021 attendees are eligible to receive CLE and MCLE credit from the State Bar of California; CPE continuing education credits for CPAs; CSPG continuing education credits for Planned Giving; and CFRE continuing education credits for Fund Raising Executives.

Revamped, reimagined and rededicated to the needs of the charitable gift planning community, the 2021 Western Regional Planned Giving Conference is an outstanding opportunity for planned giving and allied business professionals to inspire and be inspired, and to learn, reflect, engage, promote and improve. REGISTER NOW to take advantage of the special early-bird rate and to attend our “Wisdom Wednesdays”, beginning April 21, 2021.

We can’t wait to see you there!

Blessings and peace,

Carí Jackson Lewis, J.D., LL.M. (tax)

How I Got Involved in LACGP

Q&A with Francine Lis

The Los Angeles Council of Charitable Gift Planners is a thriving group of nearly 300 members. Did you ever wonder how some of these members got involved in the group? We asked Francine Lis, Director of Development for the American Jewish Committee in Los Angeles and a Board member for LACGP, about her experience.

How did you first hear about LACGP? (Of course, then it was called PPP-LA!)

About ten years ago when I started my first position in planned giving, I was looking for opportunities to learn more about the field. I had never done planned giving at the time. A few colleagues told me about the Western Region Planned Giving Conference. I joined LACGP while I registered for the conference.

What prompted you to attend your first meeting?

I started my new position in March and believe the first “meeting” I attended was the Western Regional Conference. I learned so much at the conference and was also impressed by the attendees. Everyone was smart, helpful and generous. From there, I went to some of the roundtables and general meetings. I was hooked – not only from the sessions but from this new community of colleagues.

Coming to a new group can be a little intimidating. You aren’t sure you’ll know anyone. What was your experience like when you got there?

People were very kind and outgoing. Many introduced themselves to me and encouraged me to contact them for lunch, coffee, etc. so I could learn more about the field and build my network. I also was assigned a mentor which was very helpful.

How did you come to join the Board of LACGP?

I was enrolled in the Cal State Long Beach Planned Giving Certificate program and one of my classmates went on to become president the following year. He (Aaron Levinson) nominated me for the Board and from there it was history! 

Has your experience on the Board been beneficial to you professionally?

Being on the board has strengthened my community of outstanding colleagues and my understanding of planned giving issues. I have held a couple different positions so have been able to contribute and learn in diverse areas of the organization. I have benefitted professionally from being a part of the leadership of this wonderful organization.

What keeps you coming back?

While the information is always very helpful, what keeps me coming back are the great colleagues. They are smart, kind, helpful, giving, etc. They are not competitive but really want to help. We do not compete for donors in the way other development positions and organizations might. People who make a planned gift most likely are doing this for several organizations. I benefit and grown from being in the same physical or today – “zoom room” with the amazing professionals involved with LACGP.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Whatever your role whether as a development professional, executive director or allied professional, I encourage you to become or remain a member of LACGP and attend the many outstanding programs. Even in our current zoom world, I appreciated connecting with and seeing my colleagues. Hopefully, we will all see each other soon – on the other side of this pandemic. In the meantime, see you on zoom!

If you are interested in becoming engaged as a volunteer with LACGP, please email us at [email protected]. We welcome the chance to discuss your specific interests and find a role that works for your schedule and experience!

A Goal Without a Plan Is Just a Wish

An Interview with Kimberly Flowers

I understand you've had a very successful year with bequests at your organization. Tell me about it.

Atherton had a very successful year in planned gifts, including bequests. I have had an annual planned giving marketing plan complete with activities and timelines for the past couple of years. This plan has enabled me to consistently reach out to my donors and prospects with information about different planned giving vehicles. To help with transparency and engage a broader base, I send the same information to their family members. This has opened up an avenue of both cash and planned gift discussions not previously tapped.

I've also heard you're having great success with blended gifts. How are you approaching your donors about these gifts, and what has been their reaction? 

As we all know, fundraising, including planned giving, is about the relationship with the donor. Having open, honest conversations, finding out what is important and meaningful to the donor, building trust, and meeting their wants and needs has always been my goal.

Early in my career, I worked in a large Foundation with many different gift officers, including Planned Giving Officers. I was mentored by a very seasoned Fundraiser who believed that including conversations about planned gifts while talking about cash gifts would help the donor see the many possibilities of how to accomplish their goals and have a larger impact on the organization. However, being new to fundraising, I wasn't always comfortable having in-depth conversations about various planned giving vehicles, tax rates, tax advantages, and setting up the more complicated vehicles, etc. Because I worked in a large Foundation, I was afforded the opportunity to invite seasoned planned giving officers to join me once the donor indicated that they would be interested in using a planned giving vehicle. I realized then that I didn't need to be the expert; I had experts available.

When I became the CDO of a small shop and no longer had the experts to walk beside me, I started attending as many planned giving conferences, seminars, and workshops through LACGP, AFP, AHP and Crescendo as possible. This gave me the education needed to talk in-depth about more complicated plans. Also, I asked for a mentor through LACGP. Working with a seasoned mentor on planned giving has enabled me the luxury of still having an expert to go to, given me more confidence in my abilities, and helped me to have more meaningful conversations with donors. Not only that, but I've established a meaningful friendship with my mentor, which is always a win.

I realized that even though I'm in a small shop, I still don't have to be the expert; I have an entire network to draw from when needed. This realization has been a huge win for my organization and myself.

Are donors coming to you more during the pandemic, or are you approaching them more?

I'm going to say both. Donors are coming to me, and I'm approaching them. I'm fortunate that I've been with my current organization for several years. I know the donors, donor families, and the needs of the organization well. I have regular conversations with most of my donors and have many opportunities to discuss planned giving. Also, because many of my donors live on the campus where my office is located, I see and talk with them while walking around. Because I actively market planned gifts, they will ask me questions when I see them. This week, I ran into one of my current planned giving donors while out on campus, and she approached me about giving a property located in Redondo Beach. While I didn't hold the conversation standing outside, it has allowed me to meet with her again to talk about her goals.

Pre-pandemic, I called at least three donors per day for cultivation and stewardship. Because I don't have the opportunity to meet with donors face-to-face due to the pandemic, I've increased the calls to a minimum of six per day. This allows me to continue cultivation conversations which, as I mentioned previously, includes planned giving and continue to steward and grow existing relationships. I've set up a procedure where all new donors get a call from a board member, the President/CEO, or myself within the first week of their first gift to thank and engage in further conversations. I have a 77% donor retention rate due in part to my stewardship plan.

Is there anything particular about your organization during the pandemic that is helping with your fundraising? Certain success stories?

Yes. As a Continuing Care Retirement Community, we have an especially vulnerable population. Early on, my team and I identified three areas of need. We sent out a special appeal with enormous success. The appeal included a snippet about giving through a planned gift, again opening conversations about the many ways a donor can meaningfully give with significant impact. I received two unrestricted funds planned gifts specifically from this appeal.

You're kind of a "one-person development shop" at your organization. How do you make time for planned giving?

I have a quote at my desk. It says, "A goal without a plan is just a wish." One of my goals is to have an extensive portfolio of planned gifts for my organization. While cash may be king, planned gifts are a fundamental need of every development shop. It is essential to make time in my schedule for planned giving to meet my goal.

Because you do it all, does this make it easier to talk to your donors about planned giving?

As I mentioned previously, having conversations with donors about planned giving has always been part of my fundraising. I feel like I am doing an injustice to my donors if I don't talk about the multitude of ways they can give. 

Anything else you would like to tell our members about?

Build your network, knowledge, and skills. Know that you don't have to be the expert as long as you have the network to walk beside you. When you don't know the answer to a donor's question, it's okay to say I'm not sure; let me get back to you. Then, investigate, ask questions of the experts and get back to the donor. I've never had an expert look down on my inexperience or be demeaning. They've all been encouraging and willing to share their knowledge and educate me. And my donors have appreciated my honesty and willingness to find the information they need to make the best decision for themselves. Finally, have faith in yourself and your abilities, and you will accomplish great things for your organization.