You don’t have to know the difference between a charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT) and a charitable gift annuity (CGA) to begin asking for “planned” gifts. In fact, you don’t need to know much of anything at all about planned giving to ask your constituents to remember them in their wills or other financial planning instruments so resolve in 2020 to begin asking for planned gifts.

Further, in the process of starting planned giving at your organization, it might even work to your advantage to not know much of anything about the various types of financial instruments people can use to include your organization in their estate plan.  All too often what happens when an organization has some expertise in planned giving is that an organization creates a page on its website that lists all the different types of giving “vehicles” (#?!) that a donor can use to give to the organization.  Reading those lists of types of trusts and annuities numbs the mind and makes the average person’s eyes glaze over.

So consider yourself in good stead if you don’t know much about giving instruments because then you can focus instead on what you really should be focusing on:  the reasons why someone should want your organization to be a part of his or her legacy.  (The other stuff—the list of ways to give—is the how. Someone else—a lawyer or financial planner—can an talk with your supporters about that!).

Just ask. It’s really that simple. All you need to do to start encouraging planned giving at your organization is to start to let people know that you’re “open for business” so to speak, that is, to let people know that you would love for them to remember your organization in their will (which is how 85% of all planned gifts are made).

It’s life events—having a first baby, getting married, getting divorced, the death of a spouse, becoming an empty nester—that trigger a person writing or revising a will.  Arizona attorney Susan Sandys says the most common reasons people write a will include a significant medical diagnosis or injury and the purchase or sale of a home or property.

Your goal, as someone who wants to help your organization, is to constantly remind people that they can help your organization by remembering the cause in their will. That way, when they have that first baby and call a lawyer to write a will, they’ll already have decided that making a bequest to your organization is something they’d like to do.

There are several easy and painless ways you can ensure that your supporters are aware of the opportunity to give through a will so that they’ve got it top of mind when they do contact their attorney to write one. These include:

  1. Putting simple information on your website.
  2. Add reminders to your print and electronic newsletters (every issue!).
  3. Mail inserts in your other mailings (try a simple message on a brochure type paper that fits in your envelopes) – many organizations include these slips of paper inserts in envelopes with major gift appeals or thank you notes to donors.
  4. Make sure you let your board and staff members know (former staff members are often great planned giving prospects).

These are the four simple, no-cost steps are the first four steps to take to start a planned giving “program.”

Yes, sure, there are lots of other things that you can and should do to encourage planned giving, but these are simple starters. Just begin asking. It really is that simple.

Want some additional ideas or help implementing these strategies? Give us a call! Davis Nonprofit Consulting can assist you in launching a planned giving program.

Picture: studio. Used with permission.

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