Looking for new ways to take your fundraising to the next level? Wondering how iWave can help you with these new facets of major gift giving? Then, you’ve come to the right place!
There are many facets to a successful fundraising strategy. One popular way to increase success is to seek out planned giving donations. Let’s see how organizations—from big to small—can leverage planned giving to enhance their current fundraising strategies.
Planned giving is just how it sounds: Donations that are planned ahead of time. Planned giving usually occurs through a will or trust and is granted once the donor has passed away. For this reason, the circumstances preceding a planned gift can sometimes be sensitive. Be sure to approach them accordingly.
One of the ways you may want to implement planned giving is through a planned gift program. This resource helps you cultivate strong relationships with potential donors to gain gifts in the future. A planned gift program is also a great way to offer support to donors during the planned gift process—which can require a lot of paperwork.
Before we jump into the many ways you can leverage a planned gift program in your fundraising strategy, it’s crucial you understand some key terms.
When you first started crafting your fundraising strategy, you probably laid the foundation with a donor pyramid that looked like this:
As you can see, the top of the donor pyramid is planned giving. Planned donors have the ability to make the largest contributions to your cause. Despite the incredible opportunity planned giving poses, it remains a largely untapped segment.
It’s not hard to imagine why planned giving is so rarely used as a cornerstone of a fundraising strategy, as it surrounds the passing of a donor. Planned gifts sometimes come as surprises; however, with a delicate and tactful approach, organizations can secure planned gifts today.
A planned gift is often the result of successful cultivation. Volunteers, members, annual donors, and major gift donors can all be cultivated into planned gift donors. In this sense, the planned giving level is not an exclusive segment. It is the culmination of fostering great relationships with existing donors, volunteers, and members.
Tax breaks are a huge incentive for many. The substantial tax breaks that go along with planned giving can encourage prospects to support your mission. Of course, every situation is different, so you’ll want to evaluate each donor on a case-by-case basis.
When people support your cause, they want to ensure their gift is going to the right place. With yearly giving or one-time donations, very rarely can the donor detail how they would like their donation to be spent. However, with planned gifts, the power is completely in the donor’s hands, and they can stipulate how they would like their money to be spent.
Many donors long to support your cause during their lifetime but don’t have the financial flexibility to do so. With planned giving, you gain new supporters who can contribute after they have passed, unhampered by regular bills and other major expenses.
According to research, planned gifts are typically on par with major gifts in terms of donation amount. For instance, charitable bequests are nearly three times larger than the donor’s total lifetime giving. Since these donors are at the top of the donor pyramid, these contributions can aid your mission potentially for years to come.
As we have already discussed, planned gifts are arranged by the donor and set up in advance, oftentimes coordinating with a will. On the other hand, memorial funds are created after someone has passed away.
A memorial fund can be a one-time donation or can be set up to be donated regularly to share consistent support over a set span of time. Typically, memorial funds are established with the help of the family and are in honor of the person who has passed.
Before you can launch a planned giving program, you’ll want to make sure you fully understand the process and how it fits with your organization’s unique mission. While researching this topic make sure you’re addressing the following questions:
Around steps one and two is when you’ll want to consider tapping into a wealth screening resource like iWave. Such software can perform wealth screenings faster, saving researchers time to engage in more on-the-ground work. They’ll have detailed prospect lists and actionable insights that can be leveraged in new fundraising strategies.
Better yet, iWave is totally customizable. Its adjustable parameters allow you to define wealth capacity settings and choose different scoring weights for aspects like affinity and giving history. In other words, you can gear iWave specifically for a planned giving strategy.
Researchers can drill down to make prospect profiles even more comprehensive. After adding in their custom charitable gift or real estate records, iWave will refresh and update scores. If you need any assistance in this, the iWave team is happy to work one-on-one, ensuring your organization maximizes the resource and its insights.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the planned giving program, you’ll need to identify potential contributors. The best way to uncover a prospect is through a wealth screening. Wealth screenings scan billions of datapoints—such as age, wealth, and philanthropic interests—to help paint a clearer picture of who has the ability and inclination to support you.
Affinity to a cause is going to be the biggest factor when determining a planned giving donor, so make sure you’re looking for people who have given to your organization or organizations that have a similar mission to yours consistently over the years. Speaking of affinity, iWave is the only platform that provides each donor with an Affinity Score by looking at donations that have been given to organizations like yours, so you can easily identify strong prospects!
For a planned giving program to work, it’s imperative to spread the word. Spreading awareness about your nonprofit in the present helps to create more charitable giving in the future. There are many different marketing techniques you may want to employ, some of which include:
As noted above, the more marketing channels you use to spread awareness, the better. A multi-pronged marketing strategy keeps your planned giving program top of mind for prospects.
As noted above, awareness is key to cultivating sponsorship. Marketing is a great first step to gain interest, but when you’re ready to take your program to the next level you’ll want to take a more personalized approach. Send out personalized and deliberate materials to potential planned givers, some of the ways you can do this include:
No matter how you decide to reach prospects, you’ll want to include testimonials and other personalized information about your organization. It’s also important to include the name and contact information for whom they should reach out to if they are interested in supporting you through a planned gift.
Since planned gifts can have a long delay between notification and receipt, you want to make sure the donors are properly stewarded and engaged during that time period. Start by sending a personalized letter to the donor, letting them know how grateful you are and how your organization will benefit from their contribution.
If the donor doesn’t alert you of their planned gift before you receive the donation, then you’ll want to reach out to their family members to express gratitude. Such a time may be difficult and filled with grief for family members, so approach with as much respect as possible.
Master effective stewardship today with the help of our Moves Management Cheat Sheet.
1. Form an Advisory Committee This committee should be comprised of people who have outside knowledge of planned giving programs. Some members of the advisory committee include: Lawyers, financial planners, and realtors. These members are here to help keep you organized and on track. They can also provide any guidance should issues arise throughout the entire process.
2. Work with Your Board Since your board members are notable figures in the community, they can also become planned givers. Approach them first to start your gift pyramid and then ask for testimonials to provide in any marketing materials. Donors are more likely to support your cause when they know there are other contributors to the cause, so you’ll want to establish a foundation, perhaps even collecting testimonials, before going into asks.
3. Start with Bequests Since bequests are the simplest type of planned gift, you’ll want to accept these first. This will help you establish your program and get your team more familiar with planned gifts before moving on to more complicated gifts. Once everyone has a firm grasp on the program, you can start focusing your efforts on expanding and diversifying the types of planned gifts you accept.
1. Build a brand You’ll want to establish a catchy name for your program, one that encourages donors to lend their support. Positive words like “legacy” and “endowment” are good buzz words to use. Then, build out the benefits of this program to help encourage prospects to join. Branding boosts recognition for your program and makes donors more likely to announce their intention to join—hopefully leading to their friends joining as well!
2. Identify prospects Have your team spend this time learning how fundraising software can help your program. Loyalty and charitable giving are two of your top indicators, however, there are many other demographics you will want to consider. Since every nonprofit is unique, you’ll want to compile data and analyze what the key indicators are for your specific cause—something iWave is more than happy to do for you with our next-generation software.
3. Analyze various factors Segment your organization’s donor database by age and then evaluate other factors. Since older donors are more likely to start thinking about their legacy, those will be your top prospects. With planned giving programs, age can really be a driving factor and is therefore a great jumping-off point before getting into other factors. This will help streamline donor searches overall.
1. Educate Understanding planned gifts is essential to cultivating donors. Donors want to make a well-informed decision on the right donation path for them before committing. Host educational events to explain the specifics of planned giving. Structure these events around your organization’s mission and avoid technical jargon. If anyone is interested, they can schedule a meeting with the right members of your team to learn all about the technical aspects.
2. Encourage dialogue Consistent and open communication between your nonprofit and donor prospects helps to build trust. Let your supporters know they can come to you with any questions or concerns they may have, so that they can feel more comfortable with the entire process. All your marketing materials should have your planned gifts representative’s contact information. Send these materials as follow ups after meetings or events to let prospects know there are open lines of communications.
3. Gather testimonials Firsthand accounts are a powerful tool when it comes to marketing your planned giving program. Hearing from other supporters lets potential donors know they are making the right choice when choosing where to leave a legacy. Hearing testimonials from people that are well known in the community will also foster more trust. Ask your current planned donors why they chose your organization for their gift and then use quotes from them in your marketing materials (with their consent, of course).
As discussed in step two, it’s important you’re finding the right supporters for your planned giving program. When looking for who would be the right fit for your organization, you’ll want to consider the following factors:
We’ve talked a lot about the very top of the donor pyramid, but if you really want a successful fundraising strategy, it’s crucial to drill down and open your strategy to mid and lower levels.
As our last bullet point states, some prospects may have restricted means in the present, but would be willing to give larger gifts in the future. Never underestimate your prospects.
With iWave’s software, you’ll have donor insights that can show you who your Hidden Gems are. These are the people you might normally overlook, but who have the ability to surprise you—potentially even when it comes to planned giving.
Leads the planned giving program
10+ years fundraising and/or in leadership positions
Ability to work independently and in a team setting when required
Identifies and contacts planned giving prospects
Experience managing gifts of $10,000 or more
Detailed and in-depth knowledge of planned giving and the specific terminology
Initiates program branding and creates marketing materials
Bachelor’s Degree, though a Master’s Degree is preferred
Clear communication and presentation skills
Manages stewardship of planned donors after they commit to a major gift
History of securing donations
Multi-tasking and deadline prioritization
Educates prospective donors and staff about planned giving
Experience with donor databases and data analysis
Ability to analyze prospective donor data
Tracks planned giving data and reports to board members
Background in finance, sales, or marketing
Ability to assess planned donor needs
Since your most likely prospects are those who have supported your cause in the past, reach out to your current donor pool and let them know you’ve started a planned giving program. Let your donors know how pledging to this program can further support your mission for years to come. By retaining the donors you already have, you’ll secure future success for your nonprofit.
If you utilize planned giving in your existing marketing, you’ll not only be saving on your resources budget, but you’ll be reaching a wider audience. By giving prospects many different avenues for support, you’ll increase your likelihood of receiving a gift. You’ll want to mention your program in resources like emails, websites, newsletters, and social media accounts.
Ask your web designer to create a whole page on your website dedicated to your planned giving program. You’ll want to mention what the program entails, its specific role in your organization, what types of planned gifts you will accept, and who to contact if donors are interested in providing a planned gift. Having this information readily available lets major donors know of the various options available to them—increasing your chances of receiving that type of donation.
In addition to a separate webpage, you’ll want to create a brochure with the same information available inside. Be sure to include testimonials as well to make the brochure as personalized as possible. You can hand out this information at meetings or galas where major gift donors are in attendance. You can also mail the brochure out to anyone your wealth screenings have identified as a top planned giving prospect along with a personalized letter.
Just as you want your brochures to be personalized, you want to forge a close relationship with potential donors. By meeting with them in person, you are helping to put a friendly face to your nonprofit. Since planned giving can also be a complicated process, this helps to reassure donors they will be supported along the way. Presently, in-person meetings may not be the safest option, but that’s okay. Face time is what’s important here, and that can be achieved with virtual meetings!
Another way to stay personal is to avoid language that is too technical on your website or in letters and brochures. Clearly state your mission and how it has helped your community, emphasizing what future donations can do to enhance these successes. You will also want to emphasize how your potential donor’s legacy will be established with your organization—enacting positive change for decades to come. Avoid using too many stats or finance numbers, as you can always go into the fine details later. You want to make sure this process is personal and appeals to them from the start. In other words, tug on the heart strings!
With planned giving, as with all charitable donations, there may be questions surrounding ethics. While ethical dilemmas are rare with most planned giving programs, it’s important you are fully aware of potential issues should they ever arise.
To ensure you’re fully prepared, ask yourself these two important questions:
1. Are there any ethical issues surrounding tax breaks? Tax breaks often go hand in hand with planned giving and can be a major benefit to donors. However, there are some people out there who may misunderstand tax breaks as loopholes. Make sure your donor understands that your charity is the primary driving factor behind a planned gift so that you can accept their donation in good conscience.
2. Are donors offering more than they are reasonably able to donate? Sometimes donors will be so compelled to support your cause that they make a donation that is outside of their realistic means. If this occurs, gently guide your donor towards a more sensible donation. Acknowledge and thank them for their good intentions and set them up with a financial advisor to verify their donation amount.
When using iWave, you’ll learn not only of a prospect’s inclination to give, but their capacity as well. Make note of this information to understand whether or not a planned donor is giving outside of their means.
Even though planned gifts are typically made after the donor has passed away, it’s still important to recognize how their contribution has helped your organization. Placing a memorial at your facility is a great way to let their loved ones know that their gift has helped positively impact the community. This can even encourage future donors to schedule planned gifts as well.
One of the most popular ways to honor these supporters is through a donor recognition wall. Traditionally, this is done with basic metal plaques, but it has evolved into more branded and creative displays as well.
Reach out to a donor recognition wall provider to discuss how your donor wall can best represent your organization. You’ll want to recognize each supporter in a special and unique way that is also eye-catching for visitors to your facility.
You’ve seen how vital wealth screenings can be to establishing a planned giving program, so reach out to your friends at iWave today to see how you can start using our platform for your fundraising ventures.
If you’re new to iWave, contact us so we can show you through a free demo or fundraising assessment just how our next-generation software can assist with all your fundraising needs.