Seeking out new revenue streams helps your nonprofit maintain healthy and diverse funding sources. Among these sources, planned giving has the potential to provide long-term, reliable support. However, compared to other fundraising strategies, its potential role in nonprofit development is often overlooked. 

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 foundation for implementing a planned giving program. 

To help launch your program, we’ll walk through six steps for getting started with planned gifts:

  1. Understand your organization’s case for planned gifts.
  2. Gain general knowledge of planned giving concepts.
  3. Create outreach materials for planned giving. 
  4. Develop, monitor, and record planned giving activities.
  5. Educate and recognize donors.
  6. Know planned giving ethics.

You should aim to create a planned giving program that will last for years to come. To stay organized and keep track of all the data you’ll gather down the road, ensure your CRM has key features related to planned giving, such as donor profile management, prospecting tools, and communication features.

1. Understand your organization’s case for planned gifts.

How will your nonprofit benefit from a planned gift and why should a supporter consider making a planned gift? Answering these questions will help guide your planned giving program, making it easier to pitch your program to supporters and stakeholders alike. 

CharityEngine’s guide to planned giving walks through a few of the benefits of planned gifts for both supporters and nonprofits. Consider these advantages and how they might apply to your organization: 

  • Ability to plan for the future. Once a donor agrees to contribute a planned gift, your nonprofit can count on that funding in the future, allowing you to create long-term plans. Planned gifts are also usually restricted funds, which can provide even more specific direction. 
  • Expand your donor pool. Many of your supporters likely want to give more but lack the capacity to do so. Planned giving benefits both your nonprofit and your supporters by allowing donors to make larger contributions without worrying about their future budgetary needs. 
  • Create a legacy. Planned giving is often called legacy giving because it allows donors to create one for themselves and their families. For supporters who would like to make a lasting impact after their passing, planned giving is likely to be their best option. 

Use these goals as a starting point to consider the specifics of your nonprofit’s case for planned gifts. Do you have a significant number of recurring donors and few major donors? Are there ongoing projects that will take several years, if not decades, to complete? Consider these and other factors to determine how planned giving can positively impact your organization. 

2. Gain general knowledge of planned giving concepts.

Nonprofits are often hesitant to explore planned giving due to the financial and legal complexities that go along with it. Fortunately, most planned gifts consist of bequests—gifts allocated to a nonprofit in a donor’s will—which are relatively straightforward. 

However, before starting a planned giving program, you should ensure the staff members overseeing your program are familiar with the basics of different types of planned giving. While bequests are the backbone of planned giving, there are several other planned giving options you should know. These include:

  • Stock
  • Real estate
  • Tangible personal property
  • Charitable annuities
  • Trusts

Consult with your nonprofit’s legal team to understand how to set up each type of planned gift. Then, strive to communicate these different options to donors in plain language, so they can make informed decisions about their planned gift. 

3. Create outreach materials for planned giving.

After your team learns the ins and outs of planned giving, you’ll need to consider how you’ll relay this information to your supporters. NPOInfo’s charitable giving statistics report that over 40% of donors first learned about what planned giving is from a nonprofit. This means you’ll need to create educational marketing materials to promote your program. 

Many nonprofits won’t even need to create an entirely new marketing initiative for their planned giving program. Instead, you can simply add this information into your current communications. Get the word out through:

Be sure to segment your donors before reaching out to them. This will help you concentrate your outreach efforts on donors who are more likely to be interested in planned giving. For example, it makes sense to target donors in their 40s and 50s to get them thinking about planned giving early, rather than supporters in their 20s who would likely just feel confused. 

4. Develop, monitor, and record planned giving activities.

Planned giving requires cultivating relationships with donors that last for several years, potentially even decades. To keep these supporters engaged long-term, give your planned giving team the tools they need to plan, host, and track these activities over multiple years. 

Planned donors should be engaged in more ways than just asking for donations. You can build relationships with these supporters by offering them a variety of ways to get involved, such as:

For major donors who are also prospective planned donors, ensure your team keeps careful track of each phone call, in-person meeting, and other interactions. While all of your donors deserve attention, these supporters have the potential to fund your nonprofit for years to come and are worth a bit of special treatment. 

5. Educate and recognize donors.

As with all other initiatives or campaigns, cultivating relationships is essential for planned giving. Outreach helps grow your audience. Plus, keeping in regular contact with your donors ensures that your nonprofit is seen as a memorable, reliable champion of your cause. 

You can reach out to donors and show your appreciation through:

  • Cards and letters 
  • Recognition at events
  • Donor spotlights and shout outs 

These small, yet thoughtful, gestures will ultimately lead to your planned giving program’s success and your nonprofit’s long-term sustainability. For planned donors who have the potential to give major gifts, even consider scheduling personal visits to establish a one-on-one connection. 

6. Know planned giving ethics.

Nonprofits often hesitate to discuss planned giving due to the general discomfort surrounding the subject. Planned donors will place a significant amount of trust in nonprofits to properly use their gifts after their passing, which can lead to ethical concerns. 

When setting up your planned giving program, meet with your team to discuss the various ethical implications of planned giving and ensure you have processes in place to uphold them. While the vast majority of your team will naturally want to do right by your donors, it’s always better to set up systems that prevent ethical dilemmas than relying on individuals to make the right choices. 

For example, consider what safeguards you have on your finances. Ensure planned gifts are correctly allocated to only be used for their intended purpose and that only verified members of your staff will have access to them. For more complex planned gifts, meet with your legal team to ensure you are properly honoring your donors’ exact specifications for how their gift should be used. 

If you feel your team can benefit from learning more about the nuances of planned gifts before starting a program, consider attending nonprofit conferences or webinars that discuss planned giving. Additionally, training sessions that discuss relationship cultivation and how to make a fundraising request can be useful for your planned giving team. 

A planned giving program can be a worthwhile investment of your nonprofit’s time and resources, allowing you to earn reliable revenue and giving your supporters a way to cement their legacies. Get started with a planned giving by researching what a new program could do for your nonprofit.