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How to Market Your Planned Giving Program

Smart Marketing Means More Gifts


Senior man with hands clasped using laptop
Sam Edwards/OJO Images/Getty Images

If you are jumping onto the bandwagon of planned giving, you are not alone. Planned giving programs are proliferating due to:

  • The growth in bequests. Giving USA 2014 reported that total bequest giving in 2013 grew by 8.7 percent. 
  • The intergenerational wealth transfer, estimated by some to be $14 trillion by 2052. Six trillion of that is estimated to go to nonprofits.
  • And the decline and volatility of federal funding going to nonprofits.

But planned giving is not just about setting up the many planned gift vehicles such as charitable gift annuities and trusts. It is also about marketing your program to donors and prospective donors.

Laura Fredericks, author of The Ask: How to Ask Anyone for Any Amount for Any Purpose, says that planned giving programs need to be sold. That simply means that you need to let your donors know that you are ready and willing to help them "fulfill their philanthropic dreams of supporting your group."

Fredericks suggests the following first steps:

  • Start out slowly and build your marketing program. Begin by using your existing publications, direct appeals, Web site, and special events to advertise the types of planned gifts you are set up to offer.
  • Be sure to list a single specific person as the planned giving contact person, with a telephone number, e-mail address, and mailing address.
  • On your Web site, link giving opportunities listed on your home page to a planned giving section that presents the types of gifts available, the minimum level for each gift, and the benefits for each gift.
  • If you have to fight for space on your website and in your publications, convince your board that planned giving is important.  According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals, mailed solicitations, advertisements in your publications and on your website are the best ways to solicit bequests and other planned gifts.
  • Make sure that you are well budgeted for marketing planned gifts.
  • After covering existing materials, move on to newly created material such as, 

    --A planned giving newsletter for current planned givers as well as those who have inquired about such gifts. Send it to all ages, since planned giving can occur with any age cohort.

    --Create a planned giving brochure and send it as broadly as you can afford.

The Fundraising School at the Center on Philanthropy adds the following suggestions:

  • When budget allows, you may want to prepare brochures about each planned giving opportunity. There are also a number of companies that offer generic brochures that can be imprinted with your organization's name and logo...they can even include custom photos and stories specific to your mission.
  • Newsletters should carry stories and photos of donors who choose particular gift options. It may even be possible to recruit sponsors for the newsletters such as law firms or banks who will underwrite the production cost in exchange for the firm's name on the newsletter.
  • Consider planned giving seminars. It is wise to use a well-respected professional financial adviser, and to keep the technical aspects of the presentation to a minimum. Make sure donors leave the seminar enlightened and motivated, not overwhelmed and confused.
  • Consider setting up a Planned Giving Recognition Society. This will help eliminate the common problem of a nonprofit not knowing that a bequest has been made until the donor's death. The society will not only provide a way to recognize donors, it will encourage disclosure of donor plans and intentions.

A planned giving program is not easy or cheap to set up, so make sure that you market it adequately. It will pay off with long-term stability for your organization.

Back to How to Build a Planned Giving Program

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