5 Tips to Start a Planned Giving Program

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Does your organization have a planned giving program?

It’s not a fundraising method that gets a ton of attention; there are few (if any) online resources dedicated solely to attracting donors who will write your nonprofit into their will. Even though it’s not as glamorous a topic as, say, using social media to boost donations, it’s an important part of fundraising. Donors with wills are becoming less and less common, so it’s important to actively pursue planned gifts instead of waiting for them to fall into your organization’s lap. As is the major-gifts planning side of fundraising, planned giving is often a fundraising department in and of itself. If you don’t have dedicated planned giving staff, here are a few simple tips to help you navigate the delicate process of getting planned gifts.

1. Do your research

That seems to be the first step for a lot of fundraising methods, doesn’t it? Don’t skimp on this part! Planned giving is no joke, and it’s a sensitive subject for a lot of people. Many people aren’t super-comfortable with end-of-life planning, so tread carefully. Start by studying planned giving in and of itself. What kind of person is most likely to write a charity into their estate plan? Who is least likely? Which of your donors has a strong relationship with your nonprofit? Getting planned gifts is not like shooting fish in a barrel; it takes a lot of research and a lot of thought.

2. Get personal

This section could probably be titled “Don’t be insensitive.” When you ask your donors to support your nonprofit in their will, you’re asking to be included in a personal, often emotional, process. People who include you in their estate plan are also providing for their children and loved ones — you’re in an elite group of beneficiaries, and it’s a huge deal. If there is ever an instance wherein you should be extra respectful and build close relationships with your donors, it’s in planned giving.

3. Think About How You Present It

If you choose to market or promote your planned giving program (which you should!), be aware of how you present it. Your promotion should maintain a respectful tone and should be segmented to different key players in your nonprofit’s fundraising. Blanket e-mails or pamphlets to your entire donor base is NOT appropriate here! Be aware of your constituents when you’re promoting planned giving; different generations have different motivations for supporting charities in their wills. Older generations, for example, are often interested in building a legacy for themselves and their families, while younger generations tend to be more focused on making a lasting difference in the world. Keep in mind a donor’s age, background, previous commitments to your organization, and other pertinent details when you’re approaching them about making a gift.

4. Provide Options

There are lots of ways a donor can support your nonprofit in their estate plan. Donors can bequeath one-time gifts, stocks or bonds, property, percentages of their estate, and more. And that’s not even getting into the realm of trusts and everything they can do with those. Estate planning is full of choices and decisions; make sure your donors have plenty of options to choose from when they decide to include you in their planning.

5. Have a Lawyer

Estate planning is based on complex laws, and even the smallest errors can throw off a donor’s estate. Family situations can get out of control when there’s money involved, and nonprofits may sometimes find themselves caught up in a litigious estate settlement. Having a lawyer who knows her way around estate planning laws will make the process easier for you, both in the planning stages and when it comes time to carry out your donor’s final wishes.

Remember how we established that cultivating major donors is an art and that all its complexities can’t be covered in a single blog article? The same is true of planned giving! Make sure you do your reading, find a mentor, and keep these tips in the back of your mind. If you’re ever overwhelmed, keep this in mind; planned giving is a personal, emotional decision, and building that kind of relationship with your donors is priceless!

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