What is Planned Giving?

There is an ever-increasing focus on planned gifts among non-profits, specifically on how to secure more. And why not?  These planned gifts are often some of the largest, and typically unexpected, gifts that an organisation receives. A planned gift is a contribution that is established in the present and allocated to a future date. These gifts are made typically through a Will (i.e. bequest), life insurance or a Trust, and often granted once the donor has passed away.

The notion of a planned gift is more comprehensive than promoting just bequests. The latter is focused more on the vehicle of how the money is donated, versus a planned gift that considers the vehicle, the type of planned gift (e.g. life insurance policy), and the details of the gift. Some questions that may need to be asked could be, “what does the donor want accomplished with their generosity after they pass?”, and “does the donor want to participate in funding part of the gift today?”

Yes, there is Competition in the Non-Profit Sector for the Planned Gift

In securing more planned gifts within the sector, the word competition is not often touted in the fundraising literature. Competition, however, is here and it is only going to get more intense. According to the ACNC, there are nearly 60,000 registered charities in Australia all seeking to advance their worthy cause with the help of philanthropy. Notwithstanding the ongoing debate of running non-profits like a business, let’s all agree that the non-profit world for philanthropic dollars is competitive, very competitive. Don’t take my word for it, just ask some of your donors and ask how many calls, letters, brochures, tweets, or requests to attend an event they receive in a week from other organisations.

“According to the ACNC, there are nearly 60,000 registered charities in Australia all seeking to advance their worthy cause with the help of philanthropy. Notwithstanding the ongoing debate of running non-profits like a business, let’s all agree that the non-profit world for philanthropic dollars is competitive, very competitive.”


– @AskRIGHT, Click to Tweet


Dialing for Bequests

A development in the sector is the third-party calling on behalf of an organisation to their constituents seeking a bequest. Promotion of the planned gift is not new to the sector although the contracting out to have calls made seeking a planned gift may be rather new. This type of promotion raises a host of questions. For example, for those potential donors called how many are turned off by this approach, or what is the impact of this approach on an organisation’s brand reputation? Direct mail and email approaches are used to raise awareness and to educate constituents on planned giving opportunities. If an organisation has the budget for personnel, there is often a bequest manager. But why isn’t the planned gift promoted throughout all the fundraising tactics the organisation has to offer instead of limiting to the “bequest” department?

Does your Major Gift Officer ask their potential donor or donors about making a planned gift?

Granted there are technical aspects of creating a planned gift that likely involve an attorney, accountant, or financial advisor, but raising awareness and identifying those who are interested does not take technical expertise, but rather the willingness to ask the question.

What is one question the good, competitive, and strategic organisations are asking donors and potential donors? “Have you made a planned gift for XYZ organisation in your estate plans?”  Again, ask your donors and find out what marketing materials they are receiving from other organisations, who is asking them the bequest/planned gift question, or if they recently heard the radio spot or seen on social media the ad promoting the creation of a legacy at a competing organisation. Start asking your current and potential donors—every adult is a potential planned giving prospect because their need for an estate plan—it is not limited to those 60 years or older.

Create a Planned Giving Advisory Council

Another way to promote planned giving for your organisation, and surround yourself with experts on the subject, is to create a planned giving advisory council. Members of this council can assist your organisation in the areas of promotion, education, and technical assistance with planned giving. The council can provide the vehicle for networking and support among professionals, through formal meetings, and informal relationships on the subject. This will also provide your organisation with a resource of experts that potential donors can contact.

Have a Named Donor Recognition Society for Planned Gifts

It is also beneficial to have a recognition society for those loyal donors who have made a planned gift. Having a recognition society for planned gifts also help with the promotion of the planned gift among your constituent base. Finally, allowing donors to be part of something associated that the organisation can steward is critical. Remember, unless the planned gift is irrevocable, a potential donor can make a change, albeit is doesn’t happen frequently. An organisation’s long-term stability or survival may hinge on securing those larger planned gifts.

Start Asking

Although not everyone has the financial ability to make that leadership or major gift during their lifetime, everyone can stipulate leaving a percentage of their estate to your organisation.  It behooves the organisation to market and promote planned giving. It is important to ask the question during personal visits with donors.

Finally, people who make provisions committing their estate to something after they die, e.g. money to children or grandchildren, usually are committed to the same person, or in this case an organisation, when they are alive. Start asking the question, your competition is.

Have questions about planned giving? Get in touch with AskRIGHT Senior Consultant Dr. Jason Ketter, or the AskRIGHT team today.

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Fundraising Consultants & Researchers at AskRIGHT
AskRIGHT fundraising consultants and researchers help non-profit organisations raise more money by providing optimal fundraising strategies, identification of donors and fundraising training.
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