This guest post by Tycely Williams, CFRE, first appeared in Philanthropy Front and Center Washington DC. This is Part 1 of a three-part blog series on planned giving.

What's "planned giving"?

Also known as gift planning, the Association of Fundraising Professionals defines planned giving as "a systematic effort to identify and cultivate a person, for the purpose of generating a major gift, that is structured and that integrates sound personal, financial, and estate-planning concepts with the prospect's plans for lifetime or testamentary giving. A planned gift has tax implications and is often transmitted through a legal instrument, such as a will or trust."

Want to work smarter and not harder? Start a planned giving program. It won't inhibit the CEO 's ability to meet the annual revenue goal. It isn't necessarily more work for the overextended development office. Most importantly, planned giving is not a complicated perplexity that scares donors.

Every nonprofit should have some form of a planned giving program. These three tips will help you get started.

Begin with bequests

Opportunity abounds with bequests, i.e., the act of giving or leaving personal property by a will. Last year, Americans gave $26.81 billion of charitable contributions via bequests.

According to Giving USA 2014, giving by bequest increased 8.7 percent from the previous year. Giving by bequests increased at a higher rate than foundations (5.7 percent), individuals (4.2 percent), and corporations, which actually showed a 1.9 percent decrease. Further, a study conducted by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University estimates that by 2052, between $6.6 and $27.4 trillion in charitable bequests will be made.

Bequests are the cornerstone of all planned giving programs. Donors like bequests for the same reasons you will come to love them. Bequests are often straightforward and easy to understand. A bequest is merely a written statement within a donor's will that grants a charity a certain asset or percentage of an estate at the donor's death.

Start the planned giving program by promoting bequests. Within existing marketing collateral and materials, integrate the option for donors to remember your organization in their wills. When you direct donors to learn more, remember to always include a person to contact. Deferred gifts, expectancies, and outright planned gifts require time and genuine relationship building. A passionate, informed, and responsible staff member must nurture the potential.

Incite interest

Armed with an understanding of the importance of bequests, you must seek and solicit support from leadership. Leaders are responsible for creating and fulfilling the vision for future generations. Generally, these aims are positioned within strategic plans or acknowledged in vision, mission, and case statements. Highlight planned giving as a viable avenue to actualize future undertakings. Planned giving is an exciting solution that grants donors peace of mind, tax advantages, and limitless potential to advance the charitable cause of your organization.

Pony up with partners

Once you ignite interest from stakeholders, it is time to look to similarly sized organizations for guidance and technical assistance. Turn to your board and corporate partners to assist with the creation of written policies and guidelines. Pro bono legal counsel and financial advisers can help organizations of any size navigate the complexities. Marketing materials and website content can be created, produced, and managed by reputable outside vendors. It is common practice for law firms or banks to underwrite or sponsor cultivation events and materials. Remember, you are not building a comprehensive planned giving program overnight. Pony up with partners to help you methodically build your program beyond bequests.


TYCELY WILLIAMS, CFRE is a Regional Chief Development Officer at the American Red Cross.

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