If you’ve ever felt nervous about asking for planned gifts for your church, you’re not alone. But it can make such a big difference to your ministry that it’s worth pushing through the discomfort and doing it anyway. Following a tried-and-true system can make it easier. Once you’ve identified good prospects for planned giving, here are seven things you can do to set yourself up for successful asks.
Have a real relationship. Talking about bequests involves reckoning with our own mortality, which isn’t something we do with just anyone. If you have a list of people who you think might be good prospects, start by asking someone you’re already close to so that you can build confidence. But if you need to start with someone you don’t know well, schedule some low-stakes time together before you make the ask. Don’t bring it up the first time you visit one-on-one. Get familiar with key details about the history, family, and relationship with the church.
Ask how you can pray for the person. Then follow through. Prayer is powerful. It will also help you love them better and focus on them more, and they’ll feel it.
Do your homework. Be ready to provide suggested bequest language, stories about how other bequests have benefitted your church, and ideas for how a bequest could enrich the ministries that are most important to them.
Reassure yourself that the conversation you are about to have, when done properly, should result in a win-win situation for both the church and the donor. For a variety of reasons, be they economic, emotional, religious, etc., the potential donor could benefit or be relieved of some very difficult and emotional challenges facing them as the result of your willingness to engage them in conversation.
No surprises. Unless they bring it up or it comes up naturally, don’t blindside them with this topic. Let them know what you’d like to talk about, and let them know that your feelings won’t be hurt if this is not a conversation that they want to have. In fact, invite them to say, “no thanks.” If they agree to have the conversation despite this invitation to say “no thanks,” then you can proceed without worrying about whether or not you’ll offend them.
Script it. Make a list of open-ended questions that you can ask to guide the conversation towards the importance of the church in your conversation partner’s life, and how they’d like to be remembered. Write down what you plan to say when it’s time to make the ask. Practice several times. That way, when it’s “go time,” you’ll have the confidence to ignore your script and speak from the heart.
Get in the zone. Block out a few hours before your meeting to do something that makes you feel happy and competent. Listen to energetic music. Immediately before your meeting, go to a private place (an office or a bathroom stall works well) and strike an exuberant pose with your arms over your head and a big smile. This triggers a neurochemical response that will help you feel confident. Visualize the meeting being extremely successful, and then say a quick prayer to release its outcome to God.
By Julia Frisbie, NWUMF Associate Director