The most successful fundraising organizations inspire gifts from diverse sources of income. The traditional breakdown of these sources is through direct and/or digital mail, major gifts and planned gifts. Most nonprofits raise funds through direct and major gifts while many delay or neglect planned gifts. There are many reasons for this but the most common are a belief that the return on investment is not immediate or that the complicated nature of planned gifts is not worth the effort. In reality, though, when you build and promote a robust planned giving program those other sources of income often grow while the real transformational gifts come to fruition in the years ahead.
For direct mail and digital programs, it is critical to be able to supplement solicitation messages with alternate information to keep donors engaged without turning them off through solicitation fatigue. A successful planned giving program provides opportunities to send communications that tell stories about people who have made planned gifts to your organization that will help inspire others to consider doing the same. A Donor survey that asks questions about why people give and whether they have considered making a planned gift is another low-pressure communication that helps you learn what motivates donors while planting the seed about a future planned gift. Finally, recurring gift programs are great ways to educate donors about planned giving. The best planned gift donor is a loyal donor and there are no more loyal donors than those who make multiple gifts a year to your organization. Sending information about planned gifts to recurring donors is a recipe for future planned gift success.
In the area of major gifts, some people mistakenly believe that talking about planned gifts may distract a donor from a major gift that will help today. In reality, the opposite is often true. Russell James, Professor of Personal Financial Planning at Texas Tech University, conducted a study of over 20,000 donors that identified trends in giving. In the study he found that donors who made planned gifts increased annual giving by an average of more than $3,100 a year. Planned gift valuations (when a donor shares the current value of a planned gift) can be a creative and exciting way for a donor to increase the impact of a gift they make to a cause. For example, if a donor wants to make a $100,000 gift to your organization but can only afford a $25,000 gift or pledge at the time of the solicitation you might ask if they would sign a Letter of Intent (LOI) for a planned gift worth the additional $75,000 through a will, trust or insurance plan. If a donor agrees, you will have successfully helped your organization’s short and long term financial health and strengthened the relationship with the donor when you celebrate their six-figure commitment to your work.
As the Baby Boom Generation continues to age in the coming decades, planned gifts are going to be some of the most impactful gifts that nonprofits receive. If your organization hasn’t developed a planned gift program or strategy, and you want to benefit from these future gifts, then you should start a program as soon as possible. Approached in an integrated way, a robust planned gift program and communications strategy will not only benefit your organization for years to come but can also inspire current donors to make an even bigger impact on your work today.