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  • Writer's picturelauramccartytufano

How Do I Broach the Topic of a Planned Gift?

I often hear a common confession from development professionals: “I know we should be doing planned giving, but I don’t know how to bring it up with my donors.”

First, YES! Chances are you should be implementing a planned giving strategy. There is a tremendous amount of wealth ($68 trillion, according to research firm Cerulli & Associates) poised for intergenerational transfer over the next 25 years. You need a piece of that pie!

By the way, I know it's tempting to focus all your efforts on Baby Boomers since they're the ones holding all that to-be-transferred wealth. Yes, do that. But know that by age 65, your chances of being added to a donor's will are drastically reduced. Generation X is the generation writing their first wills right now. And Generation X stands to inherit the majority of the Boomers' money that isn't slated for charity. Make sure you're paying attention to them, too!

So, back to the topic at hand. How do you bring up planned gifts with your donors?

It's daunting for many. Most people are nervous to talk about money (hopefully, development professional, you're not one of them!), but nearly all people are nervous to talk about death. But here's what you need to keep in mind: Bringing up planned giving isn't talking about death. It's talking about helping a donor's values live on. It's helping a donor explore what is most important to them.

My pro tips:

  • Have this conversation in person. This is a very personal topic. Sure, send out marketing materials and include planned giving articles in your newsletters and "send me information on planned giving" checkboxes on your direct mail reply devices. But if you really want to close a gift, ask in person.

  • As with major gifts, it's not usually a good idea to make such an important ask with a donor you're meeting for the first time. If you're not doing this already, you need to be building actual relationships with key donors, not just talking at them through mail and email. The topic of a planned gift will come much easier if you've already built a solid relationship with the prospect.

  • Know enough to start a conversation, but always refer your donor back to his or her professional advisors to examine the tax benefits of bequests,

Seven Planned Giving Conversation Starters

Below are seven different ways you can broach the subject of an estate gift with your donors. Try them out, see what feels natural to you. Practice with a colleague or friend if it helps you build confidence!

  1. "You've been very loyal to the Really Great Foundation for years. Have you thought about how you'd like to continue that legacy after you're gone?"

  2. "You've been so generous with the Really Great Foundation and so many other organizations in town. Have you ever considered giving through your estate?"

  3. "I know you're thinking about your retirement, and I bet that means you're making lots of financial plans right now. Are you and your advisors talking about the tax benefits of charitable giving through retirement assets?"

  4. "Did you notice the article in our last newsletter about the donor who named the Really Great Foundation as a beneficiary of his life insurance policy? Have you ever thought about doing anything like that?"

  5. "I've noticed that you've upgraded your annual gift regularly. Thank you! Lots of people find they can make their very largest and most impactful gift by making a provision for their favorite charity in their will. Is that something you'd consider?"

  6. "The Really Great Foundation is starting a new Legacy Circle to boost the long-term sustainability of our organization through estate giving. You've been such a committed supporter, I immediately thought of you. Do you think you'd want to be a part of that effort?"

  7. "You've been a dedicated volunteer for years. I know you've said in the past that your giving comes in the form of time, and not in dollars, and we're so grateful for your time. Many people who can more readily give of their time than their funds find that in their estate plan, they are able to give much more than they could in their lifetime. Is that something you'd be interested in exploring?"

Remember, you’re not reminding a donor of their mortality. We’re all well aware that we’re all going to die. You’re giving the donor the opportunity for their values, their passions, to live on after they are gone. Everybody wants to be remembered. A planned gift is one way for your donor to make a lasting mark on your organization and your worthy cause.

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