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Round Table Round Up: Planned Giving Basics

Individuals have traditionally comprised the largest donor segment (71% in 2015), so paying attention to this donor segment is important now – and for your long term future.

Some key philanthropic developments impact how you work with individual donors:

  • Fund development is no longer primarily about transactions, e.g. events, direct mail.  Today our ongoing relationships with our donors are key as we connect inclined donors to mission and impact and work for lasting connections through relationship cultivation.
  • Inherited wealth from the Silent and Greatest generations has enabled philanthropy by second and third gens. They are frequently forging their own charitable paths, however, based on their own personal interests.
  • A significant wealth transfer known as the Great Transfer began in 2005 with the Greatest Generation’s wealth shift to their Baby Boomer heirs. The impact is estimated at $12 trillion.  As Baby Boomers die, the Greater Transfer to their heirs, estimated to be over $30 trillion, will take place up to the year 2055.  In Kent County alone, a mere 5% spin off of inherited wealth to the county’s nonprofits would mean over $321 million in nonprofit fund balances between 2005 and 2055.

In this environment, having a planned giving program is key for organizational sustenance and for taking part in the wealth transfer now underway.  Currently, the best prospects for a planned giving program are living, Greatest Generation donors (births in the 1920s, 1930s and early-mid 1940s) whose aggregate $12 trillion in wealth is transferring and Baby Boomers (births from 1946-1964) who will inherit these funds.  Don’t assume your most elderly donors aren’t creating wills into their 80s and beyond; new research shows 65% of donors added their final charitable gifts within the last five years of their lives.

A planned giving program need not be complex.  After all, 80% of all planned gifts to nonprofits are simple bequests made via wills or trusts, and they usually represent a donor’s largest gift.  For those more complex plans, often prompted by unusual family issues or significant wealth or tax issues, know — and be known by — financial advisors and estate/trust attorneys in your community.  They will handle the more sophisticated planned gifts, with your nonprofit a possible beneficiary.

Be ready for these opportunities!  Create simple planned giving materials, and organize and promote a legacy society exclusive to your planned gift donors.  With your board, consider whether an endowment — often the “depository” for planned gifts — is sensible.  And always cultivate your relationships with your planned giving donors.  These are among your very best friends — people who have a history of loyal support for your organization, e.g.  In 3 or more of the past 5 years regardless of amount, and who wish to perpetuate their impact on your mission when they’re no longer here.

And a bonus:  Lest you think that a planned gift will negatively impact annual gifts from that donor, new research shows that annual giving actually increases by 75% once a planned gift is in place.


This information was presented at our February 2017 Kennari Consulting client round table. 

Join Us March 29! Resources & Results – Get to Know Kennari Consulting

You’re Invited!

Register Now!


Kennari Consulting provides a combination of consulting services to help you learn and grow, as well as direct services to augment your internal capacity. Kennari Consulting is one of the largest full-service fundraising consulting firms in Michigan. Sandi Frost Steensma started Kennari Consulting in 2007 because she realized that nonprofit organizations needed more customized, day-to-day, “nuts and bolts” fundraising support as well as campaign coaching. Today, the firm has 10 staff members and serves more than 60 nonprofit organizations with consulting and direct services including, but not limited to: annual fund, capital & comprehensive campaigns, endowment building, planned giving, grant writing, strategic planning, and database training. Join us on March 29 to explore our customized, comprehensive services and learn more about how you might partner with Kennari Consulting.


Date: March 29, 2017
Time: 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Location: 401 Hall St SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503  – First Floor Conference Room
RSVP: Click here to Register

Celebrating 10 Years as Kennari Consulting

I can’t believe that we have already reached the 10-year mark.  It seems like just yesterday that I started Kennari Consulting working by myself as a sole practitioner.  Now here we are, a team of ten, having served almost 140 clients and helping them raise millions of dollars to support their important missions.

I could talk about a lot of things, but I want to mention three important lessons I’ve learned in these ten years.

  •  Listening is critical.  As we’ve grown, we’ve added many services because our clients were asking for them.  We grew because we listened to what our clients have needed to grow their capacity. And for our clients, listening is just as critical.  The better they listen to and understand their donors, the better job they do of engaging people in their mission. Engaged people contribute more gifts to the organizations they love.
  •  Relationships drive action.  Donors are better champions and advocates for an organization when they are engaged in the mission.   Our clients who adopt this philosophy have seen tremendous success.  I also continue to see this dynamic evolve in the overall funding community, in powerful collaborations between nonprofit organizations, and in public-private partnerships.  It really is true: “Connectedness matters.”
  • Change is constant.  After the economic downturn of 2008, donors became more discerning about their giving and how they give. So I have seen many shifts in the philanthropic landscape.  They include a new emphasis on planned giving, a greater role for public-private collaborations, an increased focus on endowment funding for stability, the rise of online giving, and much more.  It just goes to show that fundraising is not a static profession.  We must be in tune with the donor community, and ready to adapt our processes and tools to respond quickly to changes as they happen.  A good consultant is always learning.

I could say more, but the most important thing I can say is this: thank you.  Thank you to our faithful clients for partnering with us to succeed.  Thank you to funders who give so generously to support their communities.  Thank you to board members who give selflessly of their time and talents so that the organizations they serve can thrive.  And thank you for allowing us to walk alongside you for these past 10 years.  It has been a privilege and a joy.


Kennari Consulting celebrated its 10 Year Anniversary on February 2, 2017. 

Round Table Round Up: How Are You Renewing Your Major Donors?

Donors renew at a predictable rate depending on the number of times they have provided the organization with a philanthropic gift.  First time donor renewal rates should be 25-50%, second time donor renewal rates should be 50-75%, and multiple time donor renewal rates should be 75% and up.  However, these renewal rates are greatly influenced by the work that you and your team are doing in the meantime.  In the first part of the year, it is hard to face the reality of those big gifts that didn’t make it into your mailbox at year end.  But don’t let them go without a deliberate effort to earn their gift again!

To positively impact your renewal rate among your major donors and in turn your overall fundraising success, your major gift program should contain a lot of the same elements that your less than major gift program contains but on a more personal, deliberate scale.  All major gift programs encompass the following:

  • Renewing Major Donors
  • Acquiring Major Donors
  • Cultivating Major Donors to make a Larger Gift

While this may look like something that could be tackled with a good direct mail campaign and communication plan, major donors should be treated with a deeper degree of attention and individual care in order for them to feel that you appreciate their support and that you have used their gift wisely.  You also want to always be working on building your relationship with them so that you are building their inclination to your mission, and cultivating them to their highest giving potential.  You can earn their trust and support but you have to pay close attention.

When developing a renewal plan for your Major Donors, consider the following:

  • Knowledge of your top donors – who are they? Why do they give? How did they become involved? What is their giving pattern? Which of your top donors are your game changers?
  • Segmenting your donor base – who are you calling a major donor? What is your communication plan for each segment?  What information do you let your major donors in on and how often do you contact them? Who contacts them?
  • Giving Levels – Giving levels serve an important purpose, and can act as a catalyst to your moves management plan.
  • Volunteer Support through a Donor Development Committee


This information was presented at our January 2017 Kennari Consulting client roundtable. 

Key Take Aways: 2016 Burk Donor Survey

The seventh annual 2016 Burk Donor Survey, studying American’s philanthropy and how fundraising practices affect non profit organizations, provided a few key take away points for Kennari Consulting.

In 2015, donors responded most often — 44% of the time — to direct mail.  Online giving, at 29%, was second.

Kennari take away:  Direct mail matters – make it a priority!

“Giving back” is the strongest motivator for volunteerism. The survey also found that most respondent volunteers were already donors.   

Kennari take away: Ask your donors to become volunteers and not just the other way around!

Compared to 2014, donors gave more in 2015 because:

  • Their personal financial situations were stable or improved.
  • A specific nonprofit(s) impressed them with their efforts.
  • They responded to a special request.
  • They joined a recurring giving program.

Kennari take away:  Promote monthly giving to your donors!

The number one way donors research nonprofits is by spending time on their websites.  They are influenced to give when they find information – evidence-based info – quickly.

Kennari take away:  Make sure your website clearly and effectively communicates your mission achievement!

Please contact us if you’d like more information regarding the Burk Donor Survey.

Planned Gifts Increase Annual Gifts, Study Finds

In a recent study, Dr. Russell James debunks the myth that Planned Giving erodes annual fund giving. In fact, the exact opposite is true.

Pentera’s Planned Giving blog, PGBuzz, provides a nice overview of the findings:

Planned gifts, rather than cannibalizing annual giving to charity, actually trigger increases in annual gifts, according to new research that should allay the fears of some nonprofit fundraisers.

Russell James, a Texas Tech professor, has been conducting an in-depth analysis of charitable bequests and found that donors who added a charitable beneficiary to an estate plan increased their average annual giving by more than $3,000 after making the planned gift. The research supports a 2007 study by Indiana University which found that donors who had included a charity in their wills gave more than twice as much to charity in annual gifts as donors who did not have the charity in their wills.

“This is great fodder for your annual fund department, VPs, and CFOs,” said Pentera President and CEO Claudine A. Donikian of the research. “Starting or nurturing a planned giving program will have a positive impact on annual fund giving and current giving.”

The James Research
James, an attorney, Ph.D., and CFP®, has been analyzing the charitable findings of a huge ongoing research study by the National Institute on Aging that is following more than 20,000 Americans, asking them the same questions every two years and even collecting data after they die. He looked at more than 9,000 answers in regards to annual and planned gifts to reach his conclusion:

Average Annual Giving Before and After Making a Planned Gift

Average Annual Gift PRIOR to Making Planned Gift – $4,210

Average Annual Gift AFTER Making Planned Gift – $7,381

James found that after arranging the planned gift, the donors’ annual gifts increased by an average of $3,171. He also found that donors made larger annual gifts in the study years immediately before and immediately after adding the charitable beneficiary. Donors revealed their largest annual gift to date when answering questions two years before making the planned gift, and two years after the planned gift they made their largest annual contribution ever recorded in the study years.

James presented the research results as part of a “myth-busting” session at the National Conference on Philanthropic Planning in October. His entire slide presentation, officially titled “Golden Nuggets from Ivory Towers: Recent Powerful Research Impacting Gift Planning,” is available here:

The results directly contradict the belief of some annual fund fundraisers who think that planned gifts result in a decrease in annual giving. But this is not the first study to show that planned gifts help annual giving.

For more information on how your organization can strategically blend planned giving and annual giving, please contact us or email our Senior Project Manager, Steve Ozinga.


Planned Gifts Increase Annual Gifts, Study Finds. (December, 2014). PGBuzz. Retrieved from

2015 EPIC Awards Finalist

Kennari Consulting is honored to be nominated for Small Business of the Year in the 2015 EPIC Awards! The EPIC Awards, presented by the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, celebrate local businesses and people who are doing greats things in the community by being Entrepreneurial, Progressive, Innovative, and Collaborative.  Seven categories of awards recognize businesses and individuals supporting the community, demonstrating growth, finding ways to innovate, and working with others as mentors and collaborators.

We join an esteemed list of organizations this year, including clients and many community partners.

Congratulations to all nominees. We look forward to celebrating with each of you at the celebration event on June 1!

View all nominees and event information here.

Strategists • Catalysts • Teachers

Sometimes a company outgrows its name. So it is with Parrish Consulting. What started as the solo practice of Sandi Frost (Parrish) Steensma has evolved into a full-service firm staffed by a talented team of consultants offering a wide range of fundraising expertise.

Kennari better reflects this broader scope. It also expresses our unique education-driven approach to consulting. Kennari is an Icelandic term for teacher – an apt descriptor for the way we coach, train and educate our clients to create sustainable fundraising strategies. Kennari puts the focus squarely on what we can do for you.

Our mission and services remain the same, including:

Fresh approaches to annual fundraising.  We’ll help you focus on people who are passionate about your mission and have the potential to give long-term support. Learn more >>

Capital campaigns with an edge. We’ll help you tap dedicated volunteers for focused interaction with donors who identify with your mission. Learn more >>

New ways to energize your ambassadors. We’ll help your staff and board members better understand their role in fund development, so that they will create relationships that lead to major gifts. Learn more >>

Let Kennari empower your people, evolve your programs and enhance your impact on the communities you serve.

e-Newsletters: Best Practices and What to Avoid

Donor communications should be intentional. They should validate the donor’s decision to contribute and build inclination for future gifts by demonstrating mission achievement. eNewsletters are a great way to communicate to your donors because they are low cost and are a critical tool in building online giving. There are several important factors that should be considered before sending your first eNewsletter.

1. Identify your audience – Consider who will be receiving your eNewsletter: donors, program participants, volunteers, prospects, etc. Consider targeting your eNewsletter to a specific group or groups in order to focus your message.

2. Pick a tool – MailChimp, Constant Contact, Vertical Response, etc. Create templates that best communicate your message and connect with your intended audience.

3. Frequency – Decide how often you are going to send eNewsletters. Map out your communications for the year. Start conservatively and add in frequency as applicable.

4. Subject line: Tell, don’t sell – According to MailChimp, “the best subject lines TELL what’s inside, and the worst subject lines SELL what’s inside.”

  • Lowest open rates included the words: exciting; state of the art; solution; partner; leading edge; passion; unique; help; reminder; confirm; join, assistance; speaker; press; social; invite
  • Focus on the benefits to your reader
  • Ditch the CAPS and exclamation marks!!!
  • Consider using numbers in your subject line
  • Experiment and test different subject lines with your readers
  • Best practice is to keep your email subjects under 50 characters – “They should not be longer than this sentence”

5. Review and Test – Review your work for grammar and accuracy. Test your eNewsletter on desktops and mobile devices for format. Avoid industry slang or acronyms that the average reader won’t understand.

6. Upload and Share – Upload the content of your eNewsletter to your organization website for archiving and reference. Share your content on social media sites.

7. Track – Track the number of eNewsletters sent and track open, return, click, and forward rates through your distribution site. Take note of which campaigns have better success than others and try to determine why.

New Year’s Data Resolution

We all know how a new year’s resolution works for the majority of people… You’re all for it on January 1, the first week goes off with ease. Week 2, not so easy, but you still manage. In week 3 other priorities take precedence, and then week 4…. Resolution? What Resolution?

This may be the case in your personal life, but it doesn’t have to be the case when it comes to your nonprofit data.  I know how it goes! You run a mailing list or report and see errors that need to be fixed. You jot it down or make a mental note to go back. What happens? You forget about it until the next list.

There is no time like the present to start being diligent about clean data! Here are a few items you can start with, along with some ideas for easy clean-up, to get you started:

  1. Prioritize: Identify a couple of areas in your database that need attention. Set aside time to make the changes necessary so that these are no longer trouble areas. Maybe there are certain tasks that can be done on a monthly basis. Solution: Set a calendar reminder for an hour on the first Tuesday of the month to do these tasks.
  2. Duplicate Records: This is a common one that is tossed to the side as a “later” project.  Just do it! Most data systems have a merge tool that allows you keep one record, delete another, and no information is lost.  It’s easier than you think to have duplicates…  A&B Co is probably the same as A & B Company. Joe P. Van Dyke is likely he same person as Joseph P.  VanDyke. Solution: Set up some basic data entry standards to address little issues like these can save time from bigger issues occurring later down the road. This might include spacing in names like “A&B” previously mentioned, using full names, spelling out certain words like Association or Foundation without abbrevations, or how/when to use the word “The” at the front of an organization name.
  3. Table Entries: Your tables are what make up your drop-down lists anywhere in the database. Job titles, note titles, appeals, campaigns, solicitors…. Data entry errors happen, just don’t forget to clean them up! Solution: You can typically hide old appeals (we LOVE it when your appeals are year specific!), and sort them into a manageable list; as is the case with most drop down lists in your tables. Board Members as solicitors, etc.
  4. Blank Fields: If there’s a piece of information you’re collecting on every single donor record or gift, there’s a good chance it may have been missed a few times in the entry process. Solution: You can easily set up smartlists or queries to search for any blank fields like donor category, gift appeal, etc.
  5. Reconcile: You don’t want to hunt for a missing $25 donation that accounting has on record, but you don’t at the end of the year! Sometimes donations come in online, or in a random envelope that doesn’t pass through the development department first.  Solution: Establish a monthly practice of meeting and reconciling donations with someone from your accounting or finance team. Make you recorded exactly what they recorded.

One practice that can help in eliminating some of these cleanups is to establish a database policies and procedures manual. Even though “what if you get hit by a bus” analogy is hypothetical, he day may come when you have an illness, or even leave the organization. Someone needs to be able to jump in and work their way through basic data entry. We believe that successful organizations have great data!

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