Planned Giving Success: Strategies to Maximize Donor Gifts

During the eight years I’ve been a consultant, I’ve worked mainly with social justice nonprofit organizations with budgets of $5 million or less. These groups typically have one, or if they’re larger, up to three full-time development staff members. They’re stretched thin generating resources to meet their organizations’ immediate needs. Few have time to focus on a long-term fundraising vision or to invest in planned giving, due to limited staff capacities and resources.

These organizations may think encouraging planned gifts is a good idea, but there’s usually something else that takes precedence, like writing grant proposals and overseeing major gift campaigns.  

I get it. In a small development shop, raising money for current programmatic expenses is priority one. You, too, may have thought your organization should start a planned giving program. But you may be paralyzed about moving forward because of the seeming complexity of legacy gifts. Or you can’t imagine talking with donors about estate gifts without feeling crass.  

On January 24th, I’ll be leading a Foundation Center planned giving webinar that will address these barriers and hopefully move your organization forward into launching a planned giving effort. There are simple steps even small, grassroots groups can take to encourage legacy gifts. Read on for some of the strategies I’ll outline in the webinar.

Develop a Planned Giving Case for Support

A planned giving case for support focuses on why your organization should exist decades from now. Many of our organizations address complex problems that will take more than a lifetime to solve. Other groups focus on issues that may be resolved in the foreseeable future. Groups that work on entrenched challenges or that have evergreen appeal (like arts, education, and health) are in a stronger position to make the case they’ll need to thrive in 50 years.

Develop Bequest Language

The vast majority of legacy gifts to nonprofit organizations are made through living trusts and wills. Some of your donors or their attorneys may contact you for language they can include in these documents to designate an estate gift to your organization. It’s simple to have that language ready for such inquiries.

Create a Planned Giving Page on Your Organization’s Website

When donors are creating or revising an estate plan, it should be easy for them to find the information they’ll need to make a legacy gift to your organization. Set up a page on your group’s website to provide basic information (like bequest language) supporters will need to include your organization in their plans.

Form a Legacy Society

Naming an organization as a beneficiary in an estate plan is a significant decision. Let your universe of supporters know that you’ve created a legacy society to recognize donors who have remembered your group in their plans. A legacy society is a way to encourage donors to tell you about their estate gift intentions.  

Setting up a basic planned giving infrastructure will facilitate your supporters to make estate gifts. Once you start learning of intended legacy gifts, you’ll want to do all you can to deepen your relationships with these special supporters.  

Make sure to join me in the upcoming January 24 webinar, Planned Giving Success: Strategies to Maximize Donor Gifts, to learn more about establishing strategies and systems to strengthen donor relationships and encourage legacy gifts, so you’re well equipped for planned giving success.