Planned Giving: Don't Complicate It
Planned giving provides donors with a valuable resource and your nonprofit with incredible funding.
- Require planning by the donor
- Can be current and future
- Don’t have to be complicated
- Can be made at any age
- Don’t compete with other gifts
Planned gifts of stock, real estate or charitable lead trusts can get money to your organization immediately. Most planned gifts are made from a donor’s non-cash assets, such as stocks and bonds, a retirement plan, personal residence, real estate, life insurance, art or shares in a family business.
In the U.S., 91 percent of wealth takes the form of non-cash assets. So if you don’t have a planned giving program, you are fundraising from only 9 percent of donor’s assets.
When donors reach their 40s, this is when they typically create their first wills or trust. While around 80 is the average age of a matured bequest, 65 percent of those who made a bequest last updated their wills in the final five years of their lives. So you need to stay in touch with donors—even smaller and lapsed donors as they age. Think of this as a long-term relationship.
Overwhelmingly, most planned gifts are bequests—some estimate as high as 90 percent. In addition to bequests, the easiest planned gifts account for the majority of those you will encounter and include gifts of appreciated assets, life insurance policies and retirement plans.
The NCPG study "Planned Giving in the United States 2000: A Survey of Donors" found that most donors need to be directly asked to provide for a charity in their wills. You’ve got to ask! It's no different than other types of giving!
Planned giving outreach includes the most effective channels—personal visits, as well as websites, newsletters and courses. You’ll want to establish a planned giving recognition society as a vehicle to encourage and then recognize and continually cultivate planned gift donors.
I’m not a fan of dedicated planned giving staff unless you are at a large institution, such as a major university. Equip your major gift officers and other team members about planned giving. All giving is relationship based and this adds to donor comfort. By all means do not outsource planned giving visits and asks—especially for your most qualified prospects. These are your relationships. It is your job to ask!
While overall education and marketing are important, personal visits are essential. This is where you have a conversation about shared values and legacy. Dr. Russell James of Texas Tech, who does incredible planned giving research, stresses the importance of a clear life narrative, telling stories of living donors who will live on through their gift. James also stresses that nonprofits need to be more proactive in soliciting bequests from donors who are childless.
Research by The Stelter Company shows that younger donors are less resistant to messages about planned giving. Sensitivity increases as we get closer to the age where a bequest will mature.
In 1638, John Harvard bequeathed a library and half of his estate to a newly founded school in Cambridge, Mass. Today, you have the opportunity to invite donors to leave their own legacy and help secure a strong future for an organization, a mission and values they hold dear.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.