Planned Giving in
a Public Health Crisis

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

When people are worried about illness and death, it doesn’t seem like the right time to bring up estate plans. It could come across as tone-deaf and insensitive. Recently, Ole Miss received a lot of negative press for its email asking supporters to put the university in their wills.

But let’s think about what is happening with many donors:

  • They are concerned about preserving cash while the markets go widely up and down (mostly down).
  • Their largest assets may exist in real estate or life insurance policies rather than in cash.
  • They still care deeply about your mission and want to help.

Further, during the recessionary years starting in 2008, bequest giving increased as donors made more planned gift commitments. Even in good economic times, bequest giving usually represents five percent of total U.S. charitable giving each year—or about $40 billion. And estate plans are on people’s minds these days. Google search terms for writing wills and preparing estate plans have increased since the outbreak of COVID-19.

So as fundraisers, how do we approach this topic? V..E..R..Y carefully:

It helps if you already have a legacy program. We’ve often written about the value of establishing and promoting a planned giving program. If you have a legacy society, continue to remind donors regularly about this program. You never know when that message will resonate.

Explain in the context of “giving options.” Bequest gifts are simply another vehicle for donors to support your mission while preserving their legacies. Offer it to donors as a giving option that helps your organization in the long run, but gives donors the flexibility they need now.

Weave into existing communications. Instead of sending a targeted mailing or email, incorporate planned giving options into other communications such as your website, newsletters, and appeals.

Finally, be prepared to recognize and remember your legacy donors. Legacy giving represents a deep commitment to your organization and donors should receive your full appreciation.

Stay safe, be well, and let us know if AC Fitzgerald can help you thread this needle in ways that benefit you and 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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