5 Simple Planned Giving Tips To Implement Right Now

Here’s a simple approach to planned giving that any organization can – and should – implement RIGHT NOW.

The returns on your investment of time and energy can be simply amazing!

Planned giving is the big kauhana in fundraising. That’s where the profit is, says my friend and mentor Penelope Burk.

But it’s always last down the line in terms of priority – after the fundraising events, mailing campaigns, sponsorships, grant applications, and you name it. Somehow we never get around to planned giving.


It’s so technical, all my friends say.We don’t know anything about it. And it’s a bit weird bringing up the subject.

Balderdash, I say back.

Listen, I don’t know a lot about the technical end of planned giving either. And I don’t need to know it.

But I do know two important things: I know who the best planned giving prospects are and what to do with them.

And that’s all you need to know too.

Here’s a quick and dirty plan you can implement right now. And I can’t imagine a greater return on your effort!

1.  Identify Your Best Planned Giving Prospects.

Guess who they are? They are your most loyal donors over time.They are the most consistent, most non-demanding, perhaps the most silent donors you have.

If you have someone who’s giving your organization $25 for 20 or 20 years straight, you can bet that your cause is in their will.

In fact, many surprise estate gifts come in from those small donors who are ignored by the development staff in favor of bigger donors.

And it’s the long term donor who will leave a major gift as a legacy.

As Target Analytics says, “Loyal giving behavior frequently trumps gift size as a predictor of planned giving.”

2. Communicate With Them Annually.

Simply communicate with your most loyal donors at least once a year, reminding them about estate gifts. “You can leave your legacy to our cause.”

I’m actually not even sure about the word “legacy.” Don’t by all means, remind them of their mortality with things like “when you’re gone,” which is dismal and a downer, says communications guru Tom Ahern.

3.Ditch the Jargon.

In your annual letter to your most loving and loyal donors, pitch estate gifts, not “planned giving.”

People – your donors – don’t know what we mean by “planned giving.”

Don’t throw jargon at them! Throw the words “estate gift,” “leave a bequest.”

4.Add Estate Gift Language to All Your Communications.

Put it in your newsletter, your magazine, your mailings, your annual report. Add a sentence or two into everything you send out.

Include a return card for people to ask for more information.

Remember the old axiom, make it easy for people to give. That includes a simple reply vehicle!

5.  Ask About Donating Their IRA, Tax Free.

Congress has just extended the Charitable IRA Rollover.  This law allows people who are 70 ½ or older to make tax-free gifts of up to $100,000/year from their IRA.

What a wonderful way for your true believers to support you! Don’t be shy about suggesting this.

Just imagine if only one person acted on your suggestion!

Now, if you are lucky enough to be in conversation with someone about donating their IRA, you can also gently suggest other giving options.

Here’s an idea from a Chronicle of Philanthropy webinar yesterday on Fundraising Forecast 2011: Trends and Techniques You Need to Know.

The planned giving expert on the call shared a story: He was meeting with a donor about a possible donation of an IRA, when the donor mentioned millions in his 401(k). It turned out that the donor ended up making a gift of the 401(k) funds too. Can you imagine!

Action Items for You Right Now:

RIGHT NOW, pull a list of long term donors.

RIGHT NOW, schedule an annual “estate/bequest” letter to them. Put it on the calendar.

RIGHT NOW, create two lines about estate gifts to add to all your communications.

You’ll be glad you did!

How about sharing your experience with planned giving? How did you make it work? What were your successes?

Leave a comment and let us all know!