10 Ways to Jump Start a
Lackluster Planned Giving Program

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

Let’s face it. Planned giving efforts often take a back seat to annual fund and major gift programs. Why? Simply because we are often focused on immediate funding needs, not long-term gifts.

This makes perfect sense, and no one in fundraising has a lot of time leftover for extra projects.

But in uncertain economic times, it’s best to provide your donors with options for giving other than cash.

Thus, this is the perfect time to jump start your planned giving or legacy society, making it stand out as a compelling option for support. I hope these ten (simple) ideas can help!

If you are seeking new planned gift commitments:

  1. Recognize that it’s not about death. A legacy society is about a life well lived. Specifically, it’s about the donor’s life, values, and goodwill towards future generations. Your role is to help the donor pass on these values, as well as their valuables.
  2. Share a story. Interview donors who have made planned gift commitments and ask them why they made this a priority, then include their story in an upcoming letter or newsletter.
  3. Prepare a mailing for January. New Year’s resolutions often include goals to update important documents, such as wills. Remind donors now that they can leave a charitable bequest to your organization.
  4. Hold an informational event. Consider partnering with a local estate attorney who can share the ins and outs of estate planning to get donors thinking about their legacies and their charitable bequests.
  5. Reach out to loyal donors who have recently lapsed. The best planned giving prospects are loyal donors, regardless of the size of their annual gifts. Long time donors who have recently lapsed may be concerned about outliving their money. However, they probably care deeply about your mission and own many non-liquid assets, such as a home or life insurance policies.
  6. Invite the board to join. Send a personalized invitation to each board member asking for a commitment. A group announcement at a board meeting is generally insufficient to compel board members as individuals, but you need them committed and engaged!

For your donors who have already made a planned gift commitment:

  1. Do something special today. When was the last time you communicated to planned giving donors to recognize their commitment? It’s probably time to send a heartfelt thank you.
  2. Remember the little things. Look at the donors’ giving records and send special gratitude notes, such as on the anniversary of their first donation.
  3. Treat legacy society members as major donors. Provide the same benefits to these donors as you would major donors. An average bequest in America is $73,000, so it’s wise to keep your legacy donors close.
  4. Don’t assume it’s one and done. Most individuals have a range of assets from retirement plans to stock portfolios to insurance policies. Continue engaging your legacy donors and communicating regularly. Include information about the types of gifts your organization accepts to give donors even more options.

Facing continued uncertain economic times, your planned giving efforts are one area that should shine. I hope you can take these ideas and jump start something truly meaningful for your organization, and for your donors!

Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

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