Nonprofit Network Blog

What's Your Strategy for Planned Giving?

Thursday, March 10, 2022 4:41 PM | Tracey Wilson (Administrator)



Sharon Castle
Capacity Builder


“Slightly less than half of U.S. adults, 46%, have a will that describes how they would like their money and estate to be handled after their death.”                        - 2021 Gallup Poll

The two most common objections for individuals to not have a will or estate plan are a sense of loss of control of their resources like having enough money to last their lifetime or being able to leave money to children or grandchildren and the complexity of making a legacy gift.  Nonprofits have an opportunity to educate donors and help them realize the importance estate planning which should include how they can proactively plan for their retirement needs, leave money to family members, and make a legacy gift.

What does this mean for you as the person charged with development?  Well, 54% of Americans don’t have a will designating where their assets will go once, they die and some of them are likely in your donor pool. 

So why don’t more nonprofits include legacy gifts as a giving option?

“I don’t have time to meet with donors about their estate plans.  I’m a small shop and I wear many hats.”  “I would love to have a planned giving program, but it’s almost the end of our fiscal year and I’ve got to raise 30% of my goal if I’m going to make budget.  Plus, our annual gala is next month and I’m swamped.”  Sound familiar?

If your organization does not market planned gifts as a giving option to your donors, you are missing a significant opportunity to help build your capacity and long term sustainability. 

It’s not as hard as you think.  The mystique around planned giving can be off putting, however, according to Ilona Bray, J.D., “…the vast majority of legacy gifts to nonprofits are not made through fancy annuities and other financial arrangements requiring the nonprofit’s management, but the old-fashioned way, through wills and other simple probate-avoidance devices…”

Follow these simple steps to begin marketing legacy gifts to your donors:

  1.  Place simple verbiage “Please consider leaving __________in your will or estate plans” on all your written materials, website and even use it as a tag line after your signature.
  2.  Create a collateral piece highlighting your organization, its mission and ways to give…including leaving it in a will or bequest.
  3.  Develop a list of local estate planning attorneys and email them the collateral piece annually.
  4.  Find out who the top estate planning attorneys are in your area and make it a point to invite the top 3 or 5 to lunch (one at a time) to introduce yourself and your organization.  Everyone has got to eat, right?  Remember, you can do this over the course of a year.
  5.  Get to know your donor base.  Someone who has given small and consistent amounts over many years may be a great candidate for a planned gift.

If you want to learn about how to identify potential legacy gift donors, starting a legacy gift conversation, responding to donors concerns and pairing the best planned giving vehicle with a donor join us on
 May 11th from 10am – Noon for Planned Giving Basics:  Simple Tips for Adding Estate Planning to Your Nonprofit’s Gift Options.”



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