Including Planned Giving in Year-End Fundraising

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Not everyone thinks about planned giving at year-end. The focus is usually around getting those current annual gifts in before December 1st - but it also provides a perfect opportunity to plant the seeds of legacy giving and also get some current legacy gifts (yes, they do exist!). Watch this video of my interview at about why to also focus on planned giving in the year end campaign.

Listen/watch here

What is Legacy Giving?

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This question comes up all the time and is both easy and hard to answer. Read here my REPOST article I wrote for Network for Good. Link to their site here.

If you are new to legacy giving, let’s start with what legacy giving is not – it is not scary, it is not fraught with technical tax issues, and it is not only for former practicing lawyers and financial and tax advisors. It is a fundraising option that should be used by any nonprofit professional that has responsibility to raise money for an organization. Think of it as an additional revenue resource for your organization, and another way for your donor to show support. I like options and I bet your donors do as well.

You may have heard of legacy giving by its many different names – planned giving, deferred giving, estate giving, etc.

What is a Legacy Giving Program and why is it helpful?

Why is legacy giving important as a revenue source, like annual fund, corporate and foundation giving, and events?  It is because:

  • It adds another element to individual giving;

  • It adds an additional revenue source for organizations to secure their fiscal stability;

  • It builds an endowment to provide an ongoing source of income each year in perpetuity;

  • It augments the other “asks” and deepens the connection with donors, and

  • It provides an opportunity for impactful gifts.

  • It broadens your donor base to allow donors to make impactful gifts by providing a diverse way to give assets.

There are so many reasons to add legacy giving as an option for your donors.  Why limit it to current gifts of cash and securities?

Many donors don’t have the capacity to give major gifts on an annual basis but they can make a major gift by using other types of assets, like art and life insurance policies, and more thoughtful planning through estate gifts and endowments. By promoting legacy gifts you are broadening your base of donors that can give to you in ways other than cash or securities.  You are providing your donors a way to make an impactful gift to the best of their ability.  You are creating a system that allows them to attach their values to their gift.

If you want to provide your donors with an opportunity to make an impact, while also creating a sustainable revenue source for your organization starting a legacy giving program is the way to go – and it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.


4 Simple Steps to Build a Bequest Program

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I had the pleasure of writing an article for Network For Good about how nonprofits can quickly build a legacy giving program through bequests. Below is the REPOSTED article and the link to read it on Network For Good’s site.

If you want to provide your donors with an opportunity to make an impact, while also creating a sustainable revenue source for your organization starting a legacy giving program is the way to go – and it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. This program involves promoting bequest gifts to your organization. Bequests are the most common planned giving vehicle used by donors to create a legacy gift – in fact, they make up over 80% of the gifts out there. By focusing on only bequests, you can limit your marketing budget since you are only focusing on one type of gift and your staff training is much more focused. Bequests are also easier to speak with donors about, since most people understand the concept of a will, whether they have one or not, and are easier to administer.

With the following steps you can get a legacy giving program up and running within months.

1. Start with your Board Chair (and board)

You Board Chair is important to the success of your program for a number of reasons.You need your Chair to be supportive of your program to allocate resources such as your time and budget to be used to grow the program. A legacy giving program may take years to see the return on the investment and it is key that your board is aware of this and willing to wait for those great results. Also, your Board Chair should be one of the first to do a legacy gift if s/he hasn’t created one already. It sets the tone for the rest of the board and also shows leadership support when you start to speak with your donors about their own legacy gifts. Ultimately, your board chair should be your most engaged donor and should set the example.

After you speak with you Board Chair, start to work your way through the executive committee and the development committee. You don’t need to solicit all these members in the beginning. Your initial goal is to get their support of the program.You will also want to identify at least one person that will serves as your ambassador. This is someone to stand up at board meetings to discuss the progress of the program, encourage others to make a legacy gift and make a legacy gift themselves.

2. Develop your marketing

Start with a strong legacy case statement. Many people try to bypass this step thinking it is an unnecessary task. That is a big mistake. When you do the exercise to think about your organization’s goals, why it is unique and why it needs legacy gifts you have done the bulk of the work leading to training your board and staff, creating marketing materials and soliciting your donors.

The next step in your marketing is to gather all the external communication your organization has sent out in the last 2 or 3 years. Review them – what is the tone? Do they include stories? Do they highlight legacy giving? If you have any previous legacy messaging, make certain it is in line with your new case statement. If not, revise it and determine where you can add legacy language by using what you already have. Add it to anything electronic, like the website and e-signatures, and then to any printed materials that will be going into production anyway (annual reports, gala journals, re-orders, etc.)

As you consider marketing, think about the different messages you need to promote. Remember, your donors (and legacy giving prospects) all have different levels of engagement, passion, giving, family involvement, etc. For example, how you discuss legacy giving with your board members will likely be different than your direct mail donors. Which leads us to the third step.

3. Segment your legacy prospects

A legacy program can’t go anywhere without donors. A tip to remember is that you already have your legacy giving prospects right there in your donor base. No need to look outside your organization to identify and cultivate new people. Start with what you have. The best way to do this is to segment your donor base.

Look to the following criteria. First, segment your most engaged donors. These are the donors that you know love your organization. They donate more than money; they donate their time. This will include your board members (past and current) and your volunteers.  Hint: you likely already have a relationship with these individuals. They should be your initial legacy conversations.  After engagement, segment by other factors such as age, gender, children, planned giving interest, leadership (other than board), major gifts to a restricted use, and past capital campaign donors. Notice I didn’t indicate wealth factors. This is because while indicators of wealth may be good for a major gift ask, it is not as important as engagement for a legacy ask. Don’t get sidetracked on only focusing on the wealthy. Legacy gifts come in all amounts.

After segmenting by interest and engagement, the next segmentation should be the pool of donors that have a history of frequent giving over a long span of time. This query will vary from organization to organization. This pool of donors are likely donors that have given you small gifts several times a year for years. You may not know them personally but these donors care about the organization and are excellent legacy giving prospects. Continue to send your marketing communications to them and offer them opportunities to make legacy gifts.

4. Build your systems

If you ask for legacy gifts without a system in place you don’t have a program. Before you ask for bequests to build your bequest program I recommend having policies such as gift acceptance, endowment, and investment policies in place to help guide you and your donor on what assets you can accept, how to structure the gift and how it will be invested. You will also need materials for marketing your program and documents donors can sign to indicate their interest.

A legacy program doesn’t happen on its own.  Besides the systems and materials you develop, the following folks will contribute to your legacy program’s success:

  • Development department (to have the legacy conversations with donors)

  • Finance department (to process the gifts and keep financial records)

  • Lay leadership (to support the overall program and create legacy gifts)

  • Marketing and communications (to develop marketing materials to communicate the need for legacy giving)

  • IT department (to setup systems, pull donor lists and segment your database)

  • Legacy advisory consultant (to help plan the program, set up systems, help develop marketing and segmentation so that you invest your time and resources wisely)

By following these four steps you can streamline your legacy program into an efficient way to offer your donors an opportunity to make an impact.

4 Ways to Boost Your Bequest Giving Program

Using these methods will boost your bequest program

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Sounds great, right? I have been in the planned giving space for 19 years (yikes!) and pared down my experience in helping dozens of nonprofits to increase their revenue through legacy giving to a few valuable nuggets. This presentation I did for Network For Good was so much fun and best of all - ACTIONABLE. I am all about giving people ways to do more, in a simple and easy way. Intrigued? Listen to the presentation here and join the closed Facebook group Legacy Giving Made Simple here.

The 4 Steps to Make to Create a Bequest Program

4 Important Steps to Have a Successful Bequest Program (even if you haven’t started yet)

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For those that know me, know that I am so passionate about helping organizations create sustainable legacy giving programs. And yes, I mean SUSTAINABLE! What is the use in learning how to close a particular type of gift if you can’t keep recreating it over time. You need a system - one that after you spean some time building it, it makes it SO MUCH EASIER to get future gifts.

I did an online session for Bloomerang that attendees loves - why? Because I gave them actionable steps to create a program. Are you looking to a step by step process? Check out the webinar here

Planned Giving Basics - Start From the Beginning

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Basics of Planned Giving To Nail before Going Forward

I have seen all types of planned giving programs.  And I use the term “program” very loosely.  Some organizations are trying to do sophisticated gifts without really having the basics down. Trust me – it’s important!   

Knowing the basics of a planned gift or program is essential

I know, I know – you want to skip right to the fun stuff about planned gifts: 

Better engagement

Complex planning

Bigger gifts (this one should have been listed first)

Want to test your knowledge on some basics before skipping ahead?

Let’s make it fun:

1.     A legacy gift is:

  1. A bequest

  2. An endowment

  3. A gift of artwork

  4. All of the above

2.     Most legacy gifts are:

  1. Life insurance policies

  2. Charitable gift annuities

  3. Charitable remainder trust

  4. Bequests

3.     The most likely legacy giving prospect is:

  1. Someone that came to an event

  2. Someone that once gave a large gift years ago (but nothing since)

  3. Someone who gives a small gift multiple times a year

  4. A new board member

4.     Why would a donor want to make a legacy gift?

  1. Recognition

  2. Tax benefits

  3. Passionate about the mission

  4. All of the above

If you got 4,4, 3 and 4 you are on your way.  To see whether you are ready for a legacy giving program take the fun and quick quiz here.

If you want to learn more about using legacy giving in your development program the best start is to join our closed Facebook group here to share with others resources and tips on growing your planned giving program.

When Should You Launch a Legacy Giving Program?

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When should you launch a planned giving program?

There are many reasons to factor in.

If you work in a nonprofit organization I bet you have some responsibility to raise funds or work with donors.  It may not be readily apparent (it’s not in your title) but if you have any contact with donors you are in the revenue generating business.  It is the only way for the organization to function.  If there were no revenue coming in, you wouldn’t be able to do the incredible work you do. 

In the initial start up stage of an organization it is common to be supported by a few foundation grants and some individual seed funders – that is fantastic!  It got a wonderful idea or program off the ground.  You start gaining momentum.  Perhaps the funding is sufficient for the first few years.  And then, your organization is doing so well it needs to grow – either the facilities, staff, technology, geographically… you name it.  Where is this funding coming from?  If you don’t know, and haven’t started to work on it, you will be stuck. 

Because what go you here will not get you THERE.

We know that a financially strong organization should capture both annual gifts and legacy gifts (or, planned gifts).  They both contribute to the stability of the organization in different ways and provide opportunities for donors to give in different ways.

You need a stable and consistent annual campaign.  Absolutely.  But did you know as you build a donor base, those same annual donors will give you legacy gifts one day?  So, if you are still building your annual campaign, let’s talk about ways to start to incorporate legacy giving into your development program and culture of giving so that when it comes time to promote legacy giving it is a very easy ask.

Want to know all the ways? Click here to read the full article I wrote on as a guest article for Alesha Mathis, nonprofit consultant to small and mid-size new organizations.