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Launching a planned giving programme

For many of us, we never quite get around to launching a planned giving campaign at our charity, even though we talk about it at board meetings and put it on annual ‘to-do’ lists.

The reason so many non-profits keep putting off planned giving is because it seems like it’s complicated. But the truth is, though, that setting up your first planned giving effort can be relatively smooth and painless.

'Planned giving' is the act of making a commitment to give a charitable organisation a major gift, over time or at death, as part of the donor’s overall financial and estate planning.

Start with launching a campaign to generate bequests – that is, supporters who agree to leave a portion of their estate to your non-proft. Then, once you have your planned giving campaign gaining momentum, you can investigate all of the other forms of planned giving available to your charity.

Every non-profit should be focused (in part) on finding benefactors to leave them planned gifts because there is no better way to plan for the future growth and strength of your organisation.

Planned gifts are an excellent return for relatively little cost or upfront investment. You can ask for planned gifts on a regular basis without it costing much money or time, and yet reap amazing windfalls for your organisation.

Step 1: Research
You’ll want to make sure you understand (at a basic level) how planned giving works, and what basic Wills look like. If you’re going to be focused on bequests, you won’t need to do much more research than that. Of course, if you’re going to be using more complicated instruments like charitable remainder trusts, you’ll need to spend more time doing research. In either case, spending an hour or two with an attorney focused on estate law would also be worth your time.

Step 2: Write
Once you’ve gotten a basic understanding of planned gifts, you’ll want to write up a short (1-2 pages would be fine) document explaining why people should remember your organisation in their Will, and briefley explaining just how easy it is to do so. You should also provide a contact person at your organisation who will handle calls relating to planned gifts.

Step 3: Publish
Next, I always suggest non-profits publish the information they developed in Step 2 in several places to make sure prospects and donors can find it easily. First, create a planned giving page on your website. Second, create a quick and easy planned giving brochure that you can hand out to prospective donors. Such a leaflet could be a more expensive full-color brochure, or something as cheap and simple as a flyer run off on your copy machine.

Step 4: Launch
You’ve done your research, written compelling copy, and published the information to make sure your donors can find it. Now, you’re ready to launch your first ever planned giving campaign.

First, go to your board. (Preferably, the board chair should launch this type of campaign at a board meeting, by seeking 100% board participation). Ask your board members to take the lead by remembering your non-profit in their Will.

Next, go to your key donors and supporters, and ask them to make a planned gift to your organisation. This should be treated like any other fundraising ask – and for significant donors, should be done on the phone or in person.

Finally, depending on how often you make direct mail asks of your donor file, consider sending a mailing to your entire donor base asking them to consider remembering your organisation in their Wills.

Step 5: Recognise
One great way to encourage participation in your planned giving efforts is to recognise your planned giving donors in a Legacy Club or other donor group comprised of everyone who has told you that they have written your non-profit into their Will.

As you approach new planned giving prospects, showing them a list of people who have made planned gifts to your organisation will help them feel as if they are making a wise investment. Likewise, a Legacy Club will allow you to stay in constant contact with your planned givers to ensure that they don’t fall off of your radar and move their support to another organisation.

Step 6: Include
Finally, be sure to include a small note on planned giving in almost everything your non-profit does. Planned giving information should be on your website, included in your newsletters, mentioned on your reply devices (’Tick here to receive information on how to support our organisation through a planned gift’). The more you remind your donors that you are seeking planned gifts, the more likely they will be to make them.

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