The Perpetual Campaign

Posted by National Association of Charitable Gift Planners on Jan 9, 2014 4:23:00 PM
We’ve been talking to PPP members around the country about how their organizations treat planned gifts during capital campaigns. One gift planner working for a university in the final year of a five-year, $1 billion campaign said he expects to transition immediately into the silent phase of the next campaign. It’s a high energy, high stress, production-oriented atmosphere for everyone in the development operation, and especially for gift planners, whose “production” doesn’t easily fit in a time-limited box. Is the perpetual campaign good or bad for planned giving?


The Pros
  • There’s a difference between Sunday dinner and a Thanksgiving feast, even if the menu is essentially the same. It’s just easier to get the “family” together and excited in the atmosphere of the campaign.
  • It’s a reason to revisit current donors and share information about new goals and initiatives. Plain vanilla stewardship calls are boring by comparison.
  • It’s an opportunity to “harvest” planned gifts that have been in process. Donors have a reason to finalize arrangements they’ve been considering. They might also document the value of previously undocumented gifts, if that allows them to be counted in the campaign.
  • Metrics! Planned gifts often contribute 20% or more of the campaign total. They finally hit the radar of the high level people responsible for the campaign. Perhaps the endowment focus will increase in the next campaign.
The Cons
  • Metrics! Gift planners have no control over how planned gifts will be counted, and most organizations still publicize a single-number goal. Why bother to pursue gifts that won’t be counted toward the goal? In the perpetual campaign, uncounted gifts go un-pursued for many years.
  • Planned gift donors don’t care that much about campaigns—they certainly don’t intend to die during the campaign period. The perpetual campaign imposes short-term focus on donors who are thinking about long-term legacy.
  • Peer pressure—if Next Door University’s campaign raised $7 million, why can’t we? (…even though we just completed a $6 million campaign last year.)
  • Media scrutiny—inquiring reporters want to know how much of that money you really have in hand at the end of the campaign. If they don’t understand the real value of planned gifts to the long-term stability of the organization, they may accuse you of overstating the success of the campaign.
Are you in perpetual campaign mode? 
What are the pros and cons for gift planning at your organization? 
Share your own experience and opinions by responding to our survey. Your input is completely anonymous, and questions should take no more than 10 minutes to answer. Click here to access the survey.

About Barbara Yeager

Barbara Yeager is the director of operations for PPP. She has worked for the organization since 1991. Her responsibilities include managing research projects for the national organization and for councils, managing education and networking programs for the National Conference on Philanthropic Planning, the Council Conversations series, and the Leadership Institute. She moderates groups in the PPP e-community and works with writers to develop original content for publication by PPP. Barbara has a master’s degree in library and information science and worked as a public librarian and as a technical writer and systems analyst before joining the PPP staff. In her community, she is a Girl Scout leader, a community gardener and volunteers as a costumer for community theater groups. 

Topics: philanthropy, planned giving