Knowing how significant planned gifts can be for an organization’s future, the Beta Foundation staff devised a strategy to learn which alumni in their donor base are (or would be) interested in learning more about their planned giving program – the Bridge Builder Society (BBS). This strategy also encouraged them to give their entire Bridge Builder Society program a refresh, which included documenting all of their internal and external processes/strategies aimed at cultivating and securing more planned gifts for the Beta Foundation.

Specifically, the strategy included:

  • An eight question survey and responder “Thank You” Postcard
  • Survey responder follow-up strategies
  • Collective survey results published/featured in the annual report
  • Newly Designed Planned Gift Verification Form and Framed print of The Bridge Builder poem
  • Creation of a Bridge Builder Society Process Document outlining all steps of the Cultivation/Solicitation/Recognition/Stewardship process

Specific to the survey, they partnered with their direct mail provider, Gabriel Group, to design and mail a survey to roughly 5,000 planned giving prospects. They received 904 survey responses, which represented an 18.04% response rate…well above the 10% average response rate for this type of survey. Of those 904 responders, 40 indicated there was already a planned gift that we were not aware of, 60 requested some form of follow up, 71 said they will consider an estate gift and 230 might consider an estate gift.


  • Though it is hard to prove, they are confident that the phrase “We want your opinion” printed on the outside of the original letter’s envelope helped them surpass the open rates (and ultimate response rates) that they had planned. They also wanted to stick to a one-page survey which helped readers easily digest what was in front of them.
  • Although the survey was not a solicitation piece, they did receive a few gifts in response, including two $25,000 unrestricted gifts!
  • The biggest piece of advice they received from Gabriel Group and other peer organizations who mailed a similar planned giving survey is to have a clear follow-up strategy. This proved especially helpful to them as they already shared, they received nearly double the amount of responses as originally anticipated.
  • Despite the “warmness” of the 40 responders telling them that they were already a part of their estate plans (that we were unaware of), and 60 more requesting follow up information, they found it was much harder than expected to fully document these gifts. In the year that followed this survey, they were only able to fully document 17 estate gifts with their new planned gift verification form.
  • Refreshing their estate gift program from marketing materials to their technical process document and “moves management” strategies is probably what they are most proud of in this entire effort. They feel like they are now so much more organized in their approach to prospecting, cultivation, solicitation, recognition and stewardship strategies.

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FFE recognized this program as the 2018 winner of the Best Planned Giving Effort.