Nonprofit Network Blog

6 Strategies that Inspire Planning Giving

Friday, August 18, 2017 10:05 AM | Sharon Castle (Administrator)

Sharon Castle

Capacity Builder

“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 you are missing an opportunity to help build its capacity and long term sustainability. Consider a 2016 Gallup poll that reports only 44% of Americans say they have a will instructing how they would like their estate and money distributed upon their death. Interestingly, that is lower than two earlier Gallop polls conducted in 1990 (48%) and 2005 (51%.)1

So what does this mean for you as the person charged with development? Well, 55% of Americans do not have a will designating where their assets will go once they die and some of them are likely in your donor pool. With little time and resources, how do you get them to realize that a will is important and your organization is an excellent option for leaving some of their hard earned assets? 

It’s not as hard as you think.

First, think simple. The mystique around planned giving can be off-putting, however, according to an article from Nolo by 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…”2

Here are 6 strategies that inspire planned giving:

1. Place simple, direct verbiage  on all of your written materials, website and even use it as a tag line after your signature. For example: “Please consider leaving __________in your will or estate plans.”

2. Create a collateral piece highlighting your organization, its mission, and ways to giveincluding 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.

6. If you have 50 or more donors who give small, consistent amounts, add their gifts up and consider hosting an inexpensive luncheon to thank them for their support over the years. This gives you a great opportunity to showcase your programs and let them know how their gifts have made a difference. During my American Lung Association of Michigan days, I actually had a donor call me the day after she attended one of these luncheons and tell me she wanted to leave us in her will!

Remember, planned gifts are not immediate so don’t fret if you don’t see immediate results. By investing a few hours a year, you are planting the seeds for future gifts.

If you need coaching to help you build and implement a plan, reach out to me at or call our office at 517-796-4750 to have a conversation.

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