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Planned Giving Officers: External vs. Internal Hiring


Do we need to hire a planned giving professional from outside of our organization?

As a health care organization, we often feel the need to hire planned giving professionals who have proven themselves in the field of philanthropy and have extensive experience and technical knowledge around the tax advantages of planned giving. However, these types of professionals often require a higher salary level than what we are able to offer, and finding the perfect planned giving professional can take a significant amount of time—over a year in some cases. So, do we really need to hire a planned giving professional from outside of our organization in order for us to begin, keep afloat or bolster a planned giving program? If not, what qualities and attributes should be the impetus of what really makes a planned giving professional successful so we can look for those characteristics within our organization?


In short, the answer is no. You do not have to hire externally. One of the biggest misconceptions about planned giving is that organizations need to hire a tax expert or someone with a professional advisory background in order to start or run a planned giving program. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, the single most important quality a planned giving officer should possess is not an expert planned giving skill set or an extensive planned giving resume, but rather a genuine and likable character. What exactly does this mean? What other qualities, besides likability, make an effective planned giving professional? Before we dive a little deeper, let’s remember that 90% of a mature planned giving program’s revenue comes from simple giving vehicles, such as bequests and retirement plan designations. Because this is such a fundamental truth, let’s keep our approach elementary.

The ideal planned giving officer should:

  1. Possess a natural curiosity. Possessing a natural curiosity and the listening skills to uncover opportunity, donor passion and giving capacity is just the beginning. Ideal planned giving officers have an eagerness to learn and the ability to ask really good questions. They are able to combine their existing knowledge and experience in closing gifts with planned giving-specific training and resources while also taking advantage of the abundance of formal and informal learning opportunities.

  2. Be a self-starter. Effective planned giving officers have the ability to put program plans together and take decisive actions to capture the greatest and most immediate opportunities that exist within health care organizations’ donor pools. Being a self-starter is an essential quality that demonstrates the ability to navigate, collaborate and bring together all relationship-based giving programs and other internal key stakeholders, such as legal and finance.

  3. Be able to build trust and connect with donors. The most important quality the ideal planned giving officer possesses is the ability to build trust and shepherd honest conversations with donors. This skill is critical in order to maintain a focus on the donor’s legacy and desired impact, which often loses momentum if donors are wrapped up in unnecessary technicalities and the sometimes lengthy process of defining their intentions.

Considering these, the person you are looking for may already be a colleague in your own shop. It’s a great natural progression for someone who has already proven themselves at an organization—maybe he or she is eager to learn, excel at building relationships and have a track record of closing major gifts. Be open-minded to hiring someone that has great frontline philanthropy experience and provide him or her the training and resources needed. Much of planned giving success is a learn-as-you-go process. Start your search within the walls of the organization first. It could save you time, money and effort while also providing opportunities for those around you.

What health care philanthropy, leadership and community health advancement questions do you have for Accordant? Please email us at

Asking Accordant_Planned Giving Officers
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About the Author: James Gold is a Principal Consultant with Accordant specializing in planned and major giving. You can reach him at or though LinkedIn.


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The Accordant Team has published a number of books to advance the efforts of health care philanthropy and help development leaders everywhere. 

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Accordant is honored to collaborate with American Hospital Association Trustee Services to provide issue papers, templates and webinars to support the involvement of healthcare trustees and foundation board members in advancing philanthropy. These resources can also be found on the AHA Trustee website.

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