Planned giving, according to Giving USA, was up 7.2% (to $27.73 billion) in 2013. So, if your nonprofit doesn’t have a planned giving program, start one. It’s a smart and easy way to secure your organization’s growth and financial stability.

Regardless of the size, mission, or budget of your organization, planned giving should be a part of your development plan. If you have a strong donor base, solid infrastructure, and a cohesive board, you already have the tools you’ll need to implement a planned giving program. Your board, in fact, can be especially instrumental in helping with planned giving.



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Philip M. Purcell, vice president for planned giving and endowment stewardship at the Ball State University Foundation, advises to “Think of encouraging planned giving as part of (the board’s) duty.”

Creating a new marketing initiative for your planned giving program is not truly necessary if time and resources aren’t available. You can simply add (or piggyback) this information to your current communications. Your website or social media platforms is a great place to start, but you could also “incorporate bequest options into all other fundraising programs. Provide a check box so donors can ask for more information on leaving a bequest to your organization,” suggests Kayla Stevenson, CFRE, chair of the Canadian Association of Gift Planners.

You might also integrate the information with your annual appeals. Keep in mind that, though bequests are the backbone of planned giving (about 85%), there are some planned giving options, such as stock, real estate, and tangible personal property, which allow for the current use and benefit of your nonprofit.

A winning program involves the commitment of everyone in your organization, including your volunteers, so you may consider creating a committee dedicated to your new initiative.

Planned Giving Coach, Phil Murphy, who has served the nonprofit industry for over 30 years and has specialized in planned giving since 1985, outlined the responsibilities of the planned giving board:

  • Understand your organization’s case for planned gifts.
  • Gain general knowledge of planned giving concepts.
  • Make a planned gift commitment to your organization.
  • Develop and monitor planned giving activities for the year.
  • Make annual planned giving presentation to the board
  • Assist in education and recognition of donors.
  • Know planned giving ethics.
  • Open doors to staff for planned giving presentations to financial and legal professionals, volunteers, and others.

As with all other initiatives or campaigns, cultivating relationships is most important. Whether it is by personal visits, letters, or gift recognition events, always be sure to thank your donors. These small, yet thoughtful, gestures are what will ultimately lead to the success of your planned giving program and sustainability of your nonprofit.

For more information on planned giving:

Five Steps for Launching Planned Giving Programs

Planned-Giving Programs & the Small Nonprofit: Getting Started

Establishing a Planned Giving Program

20 Factoids about Planned Giving. Some May Surprise You.