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August 15, 2020
Why Nonprofits Should Start a Planned Giving Program Now
By Rita Fuerst Adams

You may sit on the board of a charitable organization #147; or be running one. Either way your organization is always cultivating and soliciting gifts to run programs.

So, why should you start a planned giving program now?

Start now, because it generally takes from seven to 10 years to begin receiving significant current dollars for your organization through planned giving.

Start now, because nationwide the average charitable bequest is $32,000 and the average charitable gift made with stock is $41,000.

Start now, because some planned gifts, like stock, benefit your programs now.

Planned giving refers to any charitable gift that requires more thought and planning to execute than the average gift. This includes stock, real estate, bequests, retirement plans and IRAs, life insurance, charitable gift annuity, and pooled income fund. Of these, the easiest gifts to start cultivating and soliciting are gifts of stocks, bequests, trusts, IRAs, retirement accounts, and insurance policies.

Your contributors may save in income taxes through a charitable contribution deduction, avoid capital gains tax, or reduce the taxable amount of the estate and in some cases eliminate estate taxes that would otherwise be payable by their heirs.

Often organizations will wait until they are at least 10-years old or older to start planned giving. By this point your organization should have contributors who are confident you will be around for awhile.

Who makes planned gifts?

Look to your loyal contributors. These are the people who give to your organization #147; year after year. Many of these contributors are older retirees on fixed incomes or single females over age 65, many of whom have outlived spouses. Often contributors who make planned gifts have a high level of education, may have a higher income, or are more frequent religious attendees

Individuals give—particularly planned gifts—because they truly care about your organization. With a planned gift they may be fulfilling their philanthropic goals and their desire to leave a charitable legacy for future generations.

How do you market planned giving?

Use everything available to you. Tap into everything you currently do to contact friends, contributors, prospective contributors, clients, volunteers, and trustees:
  • Print response boxes on all your publications and use the response form on all fundraising and volunteer materials, and other requests for information.
  • As often as possible, offer prospective contributors the opportunity to ask for information about planned giving.
  • Continue to include one “sidebar” in every newsletter asking readers to include your organization in their will. Place similar copy on your website.
  • Include a story about a current contributor or a planned gift in every newsletter. Rotate these stories on your website.
  • List legacy society members in programs. Include an invitation to learn more about joining the legacy society.
  • “Mark” legacy society members who attend events with a ribbon or some other form of recognition.
Often you will see other organizations market a giving society for planned gifts. It is a good tool to recognize individuals who are including your organization in their will or trust agreement. It allows you the opportunity to thank contributors while they can enjoy it.

How does planned giving impact your organization and other fundraising?

Starting a planned giving program encourages your organization to plan for its future and sharpen your mission and vision statements so contributors want your organization to continue. To convince contributors your organization will be successful and serving the community for many years they will want to know you have a strategic business plan, a well-articulated case for support, including uses for planned gifts, and are financially well-managed.

Start now!

Rita Fuerst Adams, CFRE, president of Charitable and Philanthropic Management Counsel, specializes in serving new and emerging not-for-profit organizations and in establishing fundraising programs. Contact her at, or call 617.268.4960.
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