Planned Giving Best Practices

When you’re creating, implementing, or growing your planned giving program, there are certain best practices that you should follow to ensure its success. These are:

At iWave, we have a history of helping nonprofit organizations like yours who want to increase their planned giving donations to better serve their mission. We start by working with you from the first step, with fundraising intelligence solutions that can help you identify the right donors.

Identify the Right Donors

Identifying the right donors is the most important thing you can do with any planned giving program. This is done through strategies like wealth screening, which allows you to discover:

  • Who is interested in giving (affinity)
  • Who has the ability to give (capacity)
  • Who has a history of giving (propensity)

That’s where the innovative platform from iWave comes into play. What sets us apart is the ability to filter your prospects by affinity, or their interest in your organization’s cause.

By identifying the prospects who already care about your cause, you can focus on the donors that will be most likely to quickly convert into a planned giving donor. iWave is the only fundraising intelligence platform that provides a customized affinity score to help you identify prospects who are already passionate about your cause.

iWave Screening also delivers a Planned Giving Score for every individual screened. This feature allow nonprofits to:

  • generate a score for a prospect based on a number of criteria, some of which include age, affinity, propensity

  • identify and target individuals who would be excellent candidates for planned giving

  • provide supplemental analytics if recency-frequency-monetary (RFM) data is provided

Want to see iWave’s Planned Giving Scores in action? Contact us for a live demonstration!

How to Use our Comprehensive Donor Profiles to Discover Your Ideal Donors and Ask Amounts

We want to make sure that you’re reaching out to the most ideal donors while also expanding your donor pool and increasing your ask amount.  That’s why we give every prospect a unique and comprehensive donor profile that includes information to help you determine their gift potential like:

  • Age
  • Propensity score
  • Affinity score
  • Capacity score
  • Property count
  • Past donations to organizations in a similar industry to yours

Of course, we don’t just provide you with this information, we also show you how to use it. With actionable insights from iWave, you’ll be able to generate a specific ask amount for each donor that leaves no money left on the table. By that, we mean you won’t be asking your ideal donors for too little when they have more they can (and want to) give.

Check out our Planned Giving Guide

Know Your Demographics

Knowing the demographics of your most likely donors can help make sure you’re reaching out to the right prospects. So, you’ll want to consider your donors’:

  • Age: Most donors establish planned gifts when they write their first will or trust. This usually happens between the ages of 40 and 60, and most often happens around 44 years old.
  • Relationship Status: The majority of planned gift givers are single or widowed, since they don’t have a spouse to leave their assets to after they pass.
  • Parenthood Status: The most frequent planned gift givers are single women with no children who want to leave their assets to a worthy cause. Consider looking into donors who don’t have children or grandchildren to leave their assets to.

Consider the Hidden Gems

Never underestimate your prospects. At first glance, some donors may not appear to have the capacity to leave a planned gift. However, don’t forget about long-term donors who contribute small amounts on a regular basis. This is where calculating a donor’s affinity is important. Sometimes, these donors may want to leave a larger gift behind in their will for a cause they truly care about.

With donor insights from iWave, you’ll be able to more easily uncover these Hidden Gems that you may have otherwise overlooked.

Build a Strong Team

A planned giving program is only as strong as the team that’s running it. So, you’ll want to make sure you have a strong team in place that’s committed to your goal of securing major planned gift donations.

If you’re getting a new planned giving program off the ground, it’s important to have an advisory committee in place to help you establish policies and procedures, make periodic reports for the Board, assist with prospect identification and marketing, and provide guidance as needed.

Your advisory board is comprised of experts outside of your organization who have experience with planned giving. We recommend having a business owner, a financial advisor, an attorney, and a realtor on your advisory committee.

Hire an Internal Planned Giving Officer

While an advisory committee can offer plenty of outside guidance, it’s important to also have an internal team in place to help you manage all the new donations that will be coming your way. Start by hiring a Planned Giving Officer who has:

  • At least 10 years of experience in fundraising
  • Experience managing gifts of $10,000 or more
  • A degree or background in finance, sales, or marketing
  • A history of working with nonprofits

Your Planned Giving Officer will be in charge of leading the planned giving program, which includes tasks like identifying and contacting prospects, initiating program marketing, educating prospective donors about planned giving, and providing stewardship to donors who have already promised a gift.

Acknowledge Your Donors

Most often, a planned gift is a major gift, so it’s important to acknowledge and thank your donors. This can be a bit tricky for two reasons:

  1. Some gifts you won’t know about until after the donor has passed
  2. It’s difficult to thank someone who is no longer with us

So, let’s talk about how you can thank your donors and their loved ones in either circumstance.

Acknowledging Donors Who Are Still Living

In many cases, your organization won’t know that a donor has left you a planned gift until after they’ve passed. That’s not true for all donors, however. Some will notify you through a bequest intention. This is when a donor tells you they’re leaving a planned gift in their will or trust.

Remember that this is simply a notification, so it’s non-binding. Return any bequest intentions with a personalized thank you letter and continue to treat the donor as a major donor until the time comes that you receive their gift. Stewardship can go a long way during the waiting period.

One of the best ways to acknowledge your donors while they’re still with us is to build a planned giving program that encourages people to announce their participation. You can do this by creating a legacy program comprised of all the donors who have notified you of their bequests.

Branding your legacy program will allow you to create a sense of exclusivity and credibility and will also help you keep this group of donors engaged with your organization. You can also periodically reach out to legacy donors for testimonials, which you can include in your program’s marketing materials (more on that in a bit).

Acknowledging Donors Who Have Passed

If you create a legacy program, you’ll open yourself up to many ways to thank members of this group after they’ve passed and you’ve received their gift. For one example, you can have a donor recognition wall with metal plaques or branded and creative displays to honor all your planned gift givers.

Writing a special section in the newsletter is another way to acknowledge any planned gifts you receive. This can include a testimony from a family member who knew the donor. Be sure to also send a heartfelt thank you to the donor’s family to show your gratitude for their loved one’s gift.

Market Your Program

By and large, the most successful planned giving programs are the ones that are well-marketed. After all, donors can’t leave you a gift if they don’t know how to do so. The good news is that there are many strategies for marketing your planned giving program that’ll create plenty of buzz.

Tell Your Loyal Donors

First, you’ll want to reach out to your loyal donors with a personalized letter or email. These are the donors who have donated to your organization at least eight years out of the last 12.

As we already mentioned, even those who donate smaller amounts, but do so regularly, can still leave a major gift in their will. Reaching out to them personally and reminding them that they can leave behind a legacy can motivate them to leave a planned gift.

Update Your Marketing Materials

When it comes to marketing your planned giving program, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Start by updating the materials you already have. Add your planned giving program to your donations page and shout out your program in your next email or newsletter.

You should also make materials specifically for your planned giving program, including a logo. This will help brand your legacy program. You can do this by creating a new page on your website that’s all about your program. This page should include information like:

  • Basic definitions and benefits of planned giving
  • Frequently asked questions
  • A step-by-step guide to leaving a planned gift
  • How to join the legacy program
  • Testimonials

We also recommend making a brochure detailing your planned giving program. This will provide you with a physical marketing resource that you can send to your mailing list or to prospects.  You can make a digital version, too, that’s downloadable from your website to reach your more tech-savvy donors.

Implement These Planned Giving Best Practices with iWave Today

A successful planned giving program offers several benefits to both organizations and their donors. By following just four simple planned giving best practices, you can ensure that your planned giving program is a successful one that you can sustain long-term.

As you now know, it all starts with identifying the right donors and asking them for the right gift amounts. iWave is here to help with that. Our innovative fundraising intelligence platform leverages a modern design and intuitive layout to help you identify, cultivate, and retain donors who are likely to leave planned gifts.

To learn more about how we can help grow your planned giving program, reach out to our team today and get a free assessment!

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