University of Michigan School of Information – Virtual Estate Planning Workshop

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TitleVirtual Estate Planning Workshop
InstitutionUniversity of Michigan School of Information
Submitted ByGreg Powell
Development Associate
CategoryLeadership Giving Materials
Institution TypeCollege / University
What fiscal year did this effort occur?2021

When the University of Michigan went to remote operations in response to COVID-19, the School of Information (UMSI) decided to pivot from the broader campus estate workshop and hold its own virtual estate workshop specifically tailored to our alumni.

What makes this unique

Though a number of peer institutions offer estate workshops, UMSI’s estate workshop is distinctive because it used a comprehensive approach via a planned giving mailing, promotion, and two workshops. It is also unique with its rapid pivot to a virtual format and tailoring to UMSI’s specific demographics. Because it is virtual, UMSI is able to quickly share the recorded presentation and PowerPoint with attendees following the workshop as well as accurately know who attended each session.

Additionally, the virtual format allowed us to offer the workshop multiple nights to alumni across the country and made efficient use of the presenter’s time. Finally, feedback was very strong, leading us to conclude that the virtual format is as effective in achieving our goals as the in person format.

Going forward, UMSI plans to offer annual virtual workshops vs. the more traditional in-person event as it is cost-effective, can be easily tailored to the audience, allows us to engage a larger alumni and friend base vs. the in-person workshops, and continues to support UMSI’s planned giving goals.


UMSI identified an immediate need for estate planning information and education as more people are creating and revisiting wills in response to COVID. Additionally, the school wanted to use the workshops to support an annual UMSI planned giving mailing and continue its estate planning workshop while expanding the workshop’s reach.

The goals of this year’s workshop were as follows: 1) engage UMSI alumni from across the country with an estate workshop 2) continue an annual workshop while tailoring it to the unique characteristics of UMSI alumni (i.e. alumni are more likely to work for nonprofits and universities, holding retirement assets in 401(ks) and IRAs) 3) identify new potential planned gift prospects and 4) provide alumni with a service, in essence give back to UMSI alumni.

The demographics invited were alumni ages 50-85 across the United States (approximately 3,000 invitations). This list matches the list of individuals who received the planned giving mailing from UMSI in early June. We scheduled two sessions on August 4th and 5th with the number of attendees capped at 25/workshop, including staff and the attorney, to allow for more meaningful dialogue and questions.

Success of the workshop was measure in the following ways:

*Number of attendees: 13 first workshop and 16 second workshop plus two staff and the attorney at the workshop
*Out-of-state attendees: eight and four respectively
*Workshop engaged planned gift prospects: Five identified prospects
*Follow up conversations scheduled to qualify potential planned gift prospects and gain feedback on the workshop: seven to date

Attendees shared that the attorney, Elizabeth Petsokey, was informative, clear, and engaging. They felt that the information provided helped them in their estate planning and that they would use this information in subsequent conversations with their estate attorney. One alumnus shared that he is inspired to move forward on an estate gift and another alumna shared that she had attended several estate workshops in New York offered by other nonprofits; when comparing those to UMSI, UMSI’s workshop was the best she had attended.