Getting Started with Planned Giving - Jean Kresse

For most organizations, resources have been focused on annual giving and in some cases major gifts.  Many nonprofit organizations, especially small ones, do not even try to begin a basic wills or bequest program (AKA - planned giving or deferred giving.)

Part of the problem is the way planned giving is presented and talked about.  It can seem intimidating to smaller organizations - or even larger organizations that depend a great deal on their annual campaigns to meet operating and program expenses.  The solution of course - is to start with the basics and go on from there.

The focus of this article will be on creating a wills program.  According to the National Committee on Planned Giving in Indianapolis - 42% of Americans have wills - 8% say they have charities in their wills, 14% say they have considered this provision without being asked and an overwhelming 97% do not revoke charitable will provisions.  Most interesting of all is that 73% of donors leaving bequest do not inform charities of their will provisions.

Fund raising is all about creating and building relationships.  Planned giving is no different. Without a relationship, you will not be successful in receiving your organizations share of bequest.

The following steps are not necessarily in order but there is some logic to the list.

Steps to Follow

  1. Meet with an attorney to establish the generic language needed for a donor to name the Foundation in their will. Contact other charitable organizations and request copies of what they give to donors. Share this information with your donors.
  2. Develop a form for individuals to sign allowing your Foundation to announce their gift. Recognizing others publicly for their contributions does help generate additional donations?    
  3. Determine what percentage of the income earned will be reinvested in the endowment. This is recommended so that the endowment keeps up with inflation.    
  4. Discuss establishing a "Recognition Society" for those individuals who name your Foundation in their Wills.     
  5. Draft a brochure. Should be first class - but fit the image of your organization.   
  6. Include the possibility of making a deferred gift in all newsletters, something short with a contact name and number. All you need to do is add "please remember us in your will" to all printed material and to your website. Develop policies, which spell out what types of gifts your organization will accept. This is recommended for any organization that seeks gifts - whether you have an annual campaign only - or a full-fledged development program. Include the Superintendent/Executive Director when endorsing the program.  This shows clearly that your organization has the administrations total support for the program. Market the idea consistently - and often! You have to continually remind prospects, donors and your board that making a gift through their estate is needed.

Identify Prospects

  1. Approach those closest to your organization - board members. These are the individuals who know the most about your organization and should already be supporting you financially through their annual gifts.  However, don't assume they will step up and offer such a gift - they need to be asked.
  2. Focus on those age 50 and above.
  3. Focus on women.
  4. Don't forget former trustees/board members.
  5. Focus on people who have realized their earning potential - child rearing and tuition payments are complete.

In summary...

  1. Begin simply - a wills program is the best place to start.
  2. Share with your administrators and your board what the planned program should include - be open to their input because you need them to help accomplish your goals.
  3. Build trusting relationships with your donors.
  4. Convey a consistent message.
  5. Make planned giving an organizational priority - allow time to make the cultivation calls and meet with donors.
  6. Pursue an aggressive marketing plan.  This should cover all of your fund raising efforts, not just your wills program.
  7. Identify, cultivate and be willing to ask your prospective donor if they would make a provision in their estate plans for your organization.
  8. Thank them, thank them and continue to thank them. 

Always remember - the number one reason people do not contribute -  they aren't asked!