How Your Nonprofit Can Get Started With Planned Giving

Planned Giving Page example.
See this incredible planned giving page at IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Federation).

Planned Giving allows donors to leave money or assets to a nonprofit at his or her death.

One popular option is for a donor to give a sizeable gift to the nonprofit through a charitable gift annuity. The donor receives a tax deduction at the time of the gift and then receives payments during his/her life. After the donor's death, the nonprofit can use the remaining gift.

Planned Giving is often an extensive program of various financial instruments that can be adapted to each donor's needs.

Nonprofits usually enlist professional help in setting up their planned giving programs and hire staff educated in planned giving methods.

However, even small nonprofits can set up simple bequest programs so that donors can designate their favorite cause as a beneficiary in their wills.

Planned Giving is also known as gift planning. deferred giving, legacy giving, or estate planning.

What to Consider Before Starting a Planned Giving Program

A planned giving program will not solve a nonprofit's immediate financial needs. It is an investment in its future financial well-being. A planned giving program takes time to construct and even more time to realize results.

Nevertheless, a nonprofit that has succeeded in drawing other kinds of donations should think about putting a planned giving program into place.

Here are some things to think about before you take that step.

Understand what planned giving is and what it does for donors.

Donors are altruistic to be sure, but they are also motivated by a desire to achieve a little bit of immortality. No other form of giving does that better than a planned gift that will memorialize them after death. All planned giving programs begin with the simple bequest.

Your organization can become the vehicle through which people, otherwise ordinary in every way, can make a lasting mark through a gift that leaves the world a better place.


Make sure that your organization is around when a donor's last wishes are read.

Saying so won't make it so. You must demonstrate to potential donors that your organization has staying power and that you will be able to put the donor's wishes into play. If your organizational purpose is time-limited, don't even consider a planned giving program.

Consider your organization's mission, goals, and activities.

Are they big enough and important enough to enable a donor to leave a lasting legacy? Donors envision leaving something permanent, such as a park, building, or scholarship fund. Can you provide that kind of permanent memorial?

Can your organization articulate how planned gifts will be spent?

You must think this through before talking to donors about leaving their money to you. Donors do not want to give their estates to your operating fund. They want to see them invested for the long term in something significant and long lasting. Having such possibilities available will reassure donors that you will not spend their gift carelessly.

Can you offer meaningful recognition opportunities for your donors?

Although not all donors want to be publicly recognized, many will. Can you provide "naming" opportunities (a building, monument, land, scholarship) that will carry the donor's name into perpetuity?

Does your organization command community respect and stature in its field?

Donors want to be affiliated with "pillars of the community." They trust such organizations and institutions to use their gifts wisely even when they are no longer around to monitor their actions.

Have you done your homework?

To prepare for a planned giving initiative, you must educate everyone in the organization including staff and board members so that they both understand and support what you are doing. They must be able to go forth confidently, and competently, to promote your giving opportunities to prospective donors.

How strong is your financial management?

You will need a robust financial management system run by experts to execute your program competently.

Start with bequests and build toward more complicated instruments, such as annuities. Enlist a good consultant and set up relationships with trustworthy financial institutions.

Suggested Resources:

Planned Giving Design Center

Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing: (AFP Fund Development Series), Michael J. Rosen 

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