Launching a Planned Giving Program

Planned giving is like a marriage. The trust relationships required for donors to discuss their retirement and estate plans are at the high end of the spectrum in philanthropic work. They have made you part of their family. Further, a commitment to a nonprofit in one’s estate is a permanent commitment to the mission of that organization.

As such, planned giving not only drives permanent support, often in the form of endowment creation and growth, but also communicates the donor’s sense of the nonprofit’s permanence. This message is a piece of assurance, helping donors feel that their investment is long term and that their money will be spent on a mission that will last for generations. Without a planned giving program to telegraph a long-lasting presence and impact on missions they care about, loyal donors may go elsewhere to make their leadership or estate gifts.

That permanence comes with the intention of patience and investment on the part of the nonprofit board and staff as well. These are common objections to launching (and sometimes even to continuing mature planned giving programs):

  1. We need cash because estate gifts require us to wait an uncertain amount of time to see a return on our investment.
  2. Planned gifts are difficult to count.
  3. We need experts to do planned giving, and we cannot afford to hire them.
  4. Planned giving is complicated and does not yield the results we need to operate.
  5. Planned giving will detract from the amount we receive in the annual fund.

Here are our solutions:

  1. While it is true that the timing of planned gift realization cannot be certain, good stewardship almost guarantees that you will receive the gift. Furthermore, planned gifts are, on average, ten times greater than the prior giving capacity of the donor during their lifetime. Doesn’t that make the gift worth waiting for?
  2. Planned gifts are not difficult to execute, nor to count. The Association for Fundraising Professionals, The Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and The National Association of Charitable Gift Planners all have researched best-practice guidelines for counting planned gifts in an ethical manner that also honors donor commitments.
  3. While pitching a planned gift takes some education, that education is not expensive and can further your career and support for your mission. It’s a worthwhile investment and this place is a good start. More importantly, planned giving professionals work with donors’ professional advisors to draft giving documents. So, if you can pitch the gift, the donors will likely use their own advisors and pay to complete the necessary documentation.
  4. The majority of planned gifts are simple: beneficiary designations and wills. These gifts yield ten times your average donor’s giving capacity and help your organization’s sustainability. We call them The Simple Gifts.
  5. Finally, national studies, including one done in 2014, show that planned giving increases commitment and the average gift amount to the annual fund. Do not let the excuse “but we need the cash now” fool anyone. Increasing commitment increases a donor’s feeling of affinity to your mission.

How to Make Successful Fundraising Asks
How to Make Successful Fundraising Asks

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