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Our early indicator that growth isn’t just possible, it’s underway

publication date: Mar 23, 2016
author/source: Brock Warner
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Brock WarnerCaterpillars have it pretty good. Kids love them, and for some reason they are granted safe passage by humans that is the envy of their insect brethren. No well-adjusted human squishes a caterpillar like they would an ant, spider or a mosquito, right?

Some caterpillars are so awesome, it’s easy to forget they’re actually just larva. Then just when you’re not paying attention, it hunkers down in its chrysalis to turn itself into caterpillar soup, and you know the rest.

For ten years, War Child was a badass caterpillar. It’s possible we convinced a lot of people – and maybe ourselves – that we were fully formed, when in fact we were still larva. Functional, growing, exploring but still larva. It’s called a life cycle because change is inevitable whether you’re ready for it or not.

In our current fundraising program, a burgeoning planned giving program is the set of wings we didn’t know we needed, and now we can’t live without. Not because it’s provided a windfall of cash (it hasn’t), but for what it symbolizes to our donors – maturity, trust, accountability and vision. It’s the early indicator in our model that growth isn’t just possible, it’s underway.

War Child doesn’t have a planned giving department. What we do have is the ability and willingness to make incremental and effective changes to our existing program to promote planned giving:

  1. Developing a simple, but effective set of materials that outline the tremendous impact a donor can have through a gift in their Will.
  2. Adding an option to online and offline donation forms for donors to request planned giving information. In 2015, a check box on a monthly donor survey uncovered a bequest intention.
  3. Establishing an efficient process for tracking, acting upon, and reporting on planned giving inquiries.
  4. Making time to promptly respond to inquiries in the manner requested by the donor.
  5. Stewardship planning and recognition of planned gifts.

Nothing in this list required an additional cash investment. Our materials are Word docs that we print in-house as needed. Donation forms are needed regardless, so adding check-boxes and form fields were easy additions. Our database doesn’t have a planned giving module. We make the most of what it can do.

For the seasoned planned giving professionals reading this, nothing I’ve shared will be a revelation. But, this article isn’t for you. This article is for the caterpillars. It’s a message from a fundraiser that’s crawled out of the caterpillar soup and wants you to know that having wings is pretty awesome, and worth the work.

Brock Warner has been Manager, Development at War Child since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter at @brockwarner, read his blog at, or connect with him on LinkedIn


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