Planned giving – arranging now for a future contribution, most often upon a donor’s death – is a missed opportunity for many community-based nonprofits. Thread Principal Taryn Deaton offers fresh perspective so that you, and your donors, don’t miss out.
It’s a true fact of fundraising that when the topic of planned giving comes up, most nonprofit leaders, development professionals included, start to squirm. It can be overwhelming to know where to start, the technicalities of giving vehicles can be confusing, and the idea of talking to people about something that involves their death can be uncomfortable. Accordingly, many community-based nonprofits shy away from planned giving.
Yet it doesn’t have to be this way, and you shouldn’t miss the opportunity planned giving offers. Planned giving can be done simply and joyfully, if you understand these four key points:
1. Planned giving doesn’t need to be fancy. Yes, planned giving includes the option to activate some pretty sophisticated financial planning tools. But you don’t need to or have to use them. As a community-based organization, stay focused on simple giving mechanisms such as being named for a gift in a bequest (will or trust) and/or being designated the beneficiary on a retirement account or on a life insurance policy.
2. Your interest is in impact, not financial implications. Your duty is not to advise the donor on the inheritance and tax implications of planned giving. Lawyers and financial managers do that. Your job is to excite the donor about the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy they can be proud of, that carries their values and connections forward. Your job is to inspire the donor, not assess their tax liabilities.
3. Planned giving donors believe in you. Donors interested in planned giving are already convinced that your organization matters and its work creates value in the world. This actually makes the conversation easier, because instead of pitching your mission, you can focus exclusively on what greater impact the donor desires for you. Donor Search reports that loyalty in giving (8-15 gifts) and consistent, consecutive year giving are the best markers for solid planned giving prospects. Start there.
4. Planned giving donations are bigger. The average planned gift in the United States is between $35,000 and $70,000. This is by far and away the largest gift that most donors will ever make. Being shy about talking with your most important donors about planned giving leaves an incredible opportunity untapped.
If you’re now feeling warmer on the idea of planned giving, you can get your organization started in five simple steps.
Create a list of what your organization could do with the money. Being clear about how the organization could use the money is the first step in building a case statement and in properly stewarding the gift. Some donors will be happy to support general operations, while others want to contribute to something that goes above and beyond the usual. Be ready to talk about the organization’s strategic priorities and specific projects, efforts, or improvements that a planned gift could make possible. Likewise, be clear on how the money could be accounted for: will it go into an endowment, fund a special project, or go into the organization’s annual budget?
Get your systems ready. There’s some internal preparation that is important to complete before approaching donors about planned giving. This includes identifying your planned giving program with an exclusive name to make it feel official and allow the chance to build the brand of planned giving alongside your organization’s greater brand. You also want to make sure your CRM is ready to tag planned giving donors and track their gifts. Finally, update your website with an overview of your planned giving program and ways to give and create any printed marketing materials helpful in sharing that same information.
Prepare a stewardship plan. Be ready with a plan for special stewardship outreach for your planned giving donors. Above and beyond a mention in the annual report, this might include a welcome packet, invitations to special events, or insider scoops on big pieces of organizational news. Think of interesting ways to show appreciation to these very special donors, and then make sure to execute!
Tell the world you accept planned gifts – repeatedly. No one will make a planned gift to your organization if they don’t know they can. Luckily, it’s easy to incorporate planned giving language into all your other fundraising collateral and messaging. Don’t forget to include planned giving language in the following communications: your donation website, your appeal replies [ex: “I would like more information about including [organization’s name] in my estate plans”], and as a tagline on your email signature with a link to your planned giving webpage [ex: “Ensure a lasting legacy for [organization’s name] by including us in your estate plans”]. Plan to tell the stories of your planned giving donors in emails, newsletters, etc., potentially even dedicating an email series to planned giving during a slower time of year.
Be available to talk. We’ve all heard tales of nonprofits who receive a substantial gift through a bequest that they had no idea was coming. While surprises are fun, reliable long-term financial planning is even more welcome. In your normal relationship management with major donors, and in emails and online, make it clear you’re also happy to talk about planned giving if that should be of interest. Planned giving is the ultimate context for relationship-building; leverage that.
If you’re interested in learning even more about planned giving and the right way to launch it for your organization, we are happy to talk! Email me at [email protected] and we can start our own conversation about the lasting legacy your organization wants to have thanks to planned giving.