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How Donors can show Appreciation for Your Organization with Planned Giving

How Donors can show Appreciation for Your Organization with Planned Giving

Learn how your Planned Giving program can serve as an expression of your donors’ deepest love.


It may come as a surprise that PLANNED GIVING is on our minds right now.

That’s because Planned Giving isn’t usually the most romantic of topics. Discussing it in your team meetings doesn’t typically inspire passion or get your staff members energized and excited about its possibilities.

But it should! We believe strongly that you should LOVE your Planned Giving program – and develop it in a way that makes your donors fall in love with it too.

What do we mean by Planned Giving?

Planned Giving, also known as Legacy Giving, involves a variety of financial tools that a donor can use to leave money or other assets to a charity.

Some nonprofits hire professionals to provide the legal and financial details; smaller charities often rely on their Development departments to carry out their programs. Wherever your organization falls on that spectrum, it’s a good idea to provide a few options to your donors in terms of ways to give.

There are 3 kinds of Planned Giving tools that an organization can recommend to their donors:

1. Gifts Donors Can Make Now. This type of Planned Gift provides immediate benefits for an organization. 

EXAMPLE: A Gift of Life Insurance. A donor would name an organization as beneficiary of part/all of a life insurance policy – and possibly receive a tax deduction that reduces their tax liability in the year of the gift. Other examples include gifts of a retirement account, appreciated stocks/bonds/mutual funds or real estate.


2. Gifts Donors Can Make Later. This type of Planned Gift provides benefits that will be realized at a later date for an organization. 

EXAMPLE: A Bequest through a Will. A donor would name an organization as beneficiary of a dollar amount, specific property or (after providing for loved ones) a percentage or remainder of their estate. Other examples include a living trust.


3. Gifts Donors Can Make through a Life-Income Arrangement. This type of Planned Gift provides a combination of a gift with immediate benefits and a gift that defers benefits to a later date.

EXAMPLE: A Charitable Gift Annuity. A donor would provide an organization with an investment; the organization would then utilize that investment and make fixed payments to the donor for life. Other examples include a charitable remainder trust and a charitable lead trust.

Most nonprofits accept that Planned Giving is an important giving option to offer their donors. That’s great, because it’s never been more important for nonprofits to have a means of continued security for the future. For donors, it’s equally important to provide them a way to leave a lasting legacy of generosity and compassion for the future with the added benefit of tax reductions in the present.

But while many organizations acknowledge the importance of Planned Giving, this concept may not be well known by their donors… or worse, completely unknown to them. Perhaps there’s no mission statement or key messaging in place to address the option of giving planned gifts. Perhaps it’s rarely or never mentioned in your organization’s newsletters, brochures and other communications.

Your organization may not be alone. According to Giving USA, bequest giving declined from 9% in 2016 to 8% of all charitable giving in 2017 ($30.36 billion total in bequests in 2017), even as the total charitable donations in 2017 in the U.S. rose to $390.05 billion, an increase of 2.7% over 2015.

Infographic of philanthropic giving - non profit marketing


What does this show? There’s a critical need to attract these Planned Giving dollars! To do that, you’ll need to figure out the most effective ways to communicate these Planned Giving options with donors. You’ll also need a solid strategy to market your program to donors who are most likely to respond.

To start, spend time thinking through how you’ll approach your donors about the WHY: why a planned gift to your organization benefits them and a vision for the type of service or program their gift can support. While your donors are generous and compassionate, they may not want to leave their estate to your general fund.

Most donors are looking for a legacy to leave with Planned Giving – which means supporting a service or program they see as significant. In other words, they have to love it! You must balance offering possibilities that the donor will see as significant with meeting your organization’s long-term goals.

Here are 3 steps to cultivate, grow and market a Planned Giving program that your donors will LOVE:

1. Set objectives/activity goals. This will cultivate a level of activity that will draw in your Planned Giving prospects and give you opportunities to build stronger relationships with them. 

EXAMPLE: I will call or visit 10 prospects by date.

Setting goals by activity is a simple and effective way to get to know your prospects who may love your organization and the work you do in your community, but who have never considered making a Planned Gift to your nonprofit.

As an organization, you should always be aware of what you can control in fundraising. You can control what you do to instigate the giving. You can set and achieve goals of how many phone calls or visits you make. But you can’t control the outcome… how your prospect gives, or when they give, or how much they give.


2. Identify potential Planned Gift donors. This will help you grow your list of Planned Giving prospects so that the activities and goals you set will be met. 

EXAMPLE: Donors who have given 6+ gifts of any amount in the last 18 months.

It’s not just about how much donors give; it’s also important to identify donors who have made repeat gifts of any amount over a significant period of time – these are your most committed donors.Be sure to flag Planned Giving donors as prospects and “hot” prospects in your database. Keep notes about each contact you make with these donors, and if/when you have discussed your Planned Giving program with them.

You may also want to use your database to set up other key criteria to find good prospects for Planned Giving, such as age, gender and marital status.


3. Create support communications to “market” your program. This will help you sell your Planned Giving program to Planned Giving prospects, while also giving you the chance to educate your other donors about giving opportunities in the future.  

EXAMPLE: Planned Giving Brochure that’s included in scheduled mailings or distributed at events.

A brochure might have basic information about the types of Planned Giving opportunities at your nonprofit, as well as a testimonial from an individual who has made a legacy gift.Use your existing media and events as springboards for marketing your Planned Giving options. For example, include Planned Giving articles in your newsletter or in the “Ways to Give” section on your website.

When you consistently cultivate, grow and market your Planned Giving opportunities, your donors will have the chance to express their deepest love for your organization and those you serve. Because planned gifts are an expression of support for your nonprofit, you’ll fall in love with Planned Giving as it reveals the love of your donors through their thoughtful gifts, which impact the present and future of your organization.

photo of Shellie Speer - nonprofit marketing


Interested in an assessment of your Planned Giving program? Or need help cultivating, growing or marketing it? Brewer Direct’s Executive VP Client Strategic Development Shellie Speer is ready to help!


Your take: What makes a good Planned Giving program? Tell us @brewerdirect!   

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