Right on the Money: Three Easy, Low-Cost Strategies for Promoting Planned Giving

Photograph of a dollar bill folded into steps, with fingers walking up the steps

Welcome to part 2 of our series on planned giving, a category of philanthropy that includes bequests, gifts of stock, trusts and other more complicated ways of giving money.

In the first installment, fundraising consultant and blogger Gail Perry told NCFY that people make larger contributions when they make planned gifts, compared to when they give an out-of-pocket cash gift. And Nanci Leitch, a fundraiser at the nonprofit Youth Services in Brattleboro, VT, told us that youth-serving agencies have a perfect mission for planned giving. We also shared a checklist to help you decide if promoting planned giving is a good step for your organization.

Now, we’d like to share three strategies, suggested by Perry and Letich, for making planned giving part of a youth-serving organization’s fundraising efforts. You may choose to combine the strategies, or just start with one.

Strategy 1: Use what you’ve got. Promoting planned giving can be as easy as adding a few sentences or paragraphs to your newsletter or annual report, Leitch says. You might profile donors who’ve made a bequest to your organization, or share the legal language people can put in their wills if they want to make a bequest.

Strategy 2: Target your old faithfuls. “People who are going to make a bequest are people who are already giving you consistent amounts of money,” Perry says. She recommends searching your fundraising database for people who’ve given regularly over the past ten years, no matter how small the donation.
Once you’ve made a list of candidates, Perry says, send them a letter letting them know how easy it is to benefit your organization by writing it into their wills, and inviting them to call you to discuss the details.

Strategy 3: Cast a wide net. Leitch says most of Youth Services’ bequests have come from people who weren’t already donors. So she takes an approach to planned giving that's different from Perry's.

Youth Services uses donated ad space in the local newspaper to run spots featuring photos of people who have made bequests. The organization also offers quarterly estate planning seminars to lawyers in the Brattleboro area. By attending the events held in Youth Services’ conference room and sponsored by a local trust company (which foots the lunch bill), lawyers get continuing education credits. And Youth Services’ executive director has an opportunity to tell them about the organization, in hopes that they’ll recommend the organization to clients looking to do good in their wills.

“People might not know about us, but they know they want to make a difference for children and youth,” Leitch says.

Read part 1 of this series to find out if planned giving is a good fit for your organization.

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