Sunday, November 3, 2013

How to Establish a Basic Planned Giving Program

With all the challenges nonprofits are facing right now, starting a Planned Giving program probably hasn't been high on your list of priorities. But there are some compelling reasons - both demographic and economic - to get started:
  • Estate gifts are a great way to build operating reserves to help your organization manage during these uncertain economic times when annual gifts may fluctuate widely.
  • Baby Boomers and elders provide almost 70% of all money contributed to nonprofits. Many of these folks have already inherited significant wealth and assets from their parents (especially stocks that have appreciated significantly over time) - and many more dollars will change hands again in the next 10-20 years as people from these generations pass away.
  • 7% of all charitable gifts ($22 billion annually) comes from planned giving. 90% of these come from bequests, and bequests are the easiest form of planned gift to understand and promote.
And it doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Here are some easy ways to start your Planning Giving program:
  • Use your current communications. You already have websites, enewsletters, brochures - use them to let your supporters know about planned giving options.
  • Borrow language from other organizations. The basics about ways to make planned gifts are universal.
  • Focus on simple options. Cash bequests, IRA and life insurance beneficiary designations, and gifts of appreciated stock are easy to understand and require minimal, if any, legal advice. But do look for a volunteer with financial expertise who would be willing to talk to donors and provide detailed information if necessary.
  • Open a brokerage account so you can accept gifts of stock. This is essential whether for bequests or for annual donations.
  • Develop a gift acceptance policy: Actually, IRS Form 990 specifically asks if your agency has a policy to review any "non-standards gifts", so it's prudent to have one in place. You don't need to make it up from scratch. For some good sample policies, go to:
  • Ask your current and former leaders (board members, key staff, key volunteers) to make a commitment. This is an easy way to start developing a list of committed planned givers.
  • Set up a planned giving society. Give it a catchy title and list the names of folks who have arranged for planned gifts (with their permission, of course). It's an easy marketing tool that allows your nonprofit to recognize and thank donors while they're still alive as well as encourage others to join them in making a commitment.
There's no instant gratification in a planned giving program, but taking these easy basic steps now has the potential to provide substantial unrestricted support for your organization in the future.