3 Strategies to Catapult Your Planned Giving Program
Planned Giving Published Date, 2023

3 Strategies To Catapult Your Planned Giving Program

Created By: Lauren Hancock and Olivia Smith
July 17, 2023

Are you looking to start a planned giving program? Or maybe invigorate an existing one? A planned giving strategy and plan is key to driving culture change and inspiring planned gifts. Without a strategy, your planned giving program is likely to remain reactive or experience slow growth. The right strategy can build a culture of planned giving and inspire many new commitments.

Finding the best approach for your organization depends on a variety of factors, including your mission, your organization’s history, the size of your planned giving pipeline, the characteristics of your donor base, and your development team structure. Based on experience with a variety of organizations and best practices, here are three different strategies to consider.

Start with the Board.

The National Standards for Gift Planning Success identifies support from the top as one of the three categories of best practices for a strong planned giving program. Board alignment on the importance of planned giving is one of the keys to motivating organization leadership and the development team to incorporate planned giving into their work. If the Board does not understand or value planned giving, that sends a message to the development team that securing estate gifts is not important. The consequence is that the organization does not set itself up for a financially secure future.

On the flip side, when the Board understands the importance of securing revenue for today while also building revenue streams for the future, they help create a culture of planned giving that infiltrates into the team’s work.

Make your board members planned giving advocates, and your development department will see the changes. Here are three ways to build a planned giving strategy around starting with the Board:

  • Conduct an interactive Board training on planned giving.
  • Ask Board members to make planned gifts.
  • Explain how gift acceptance and counting policies can be written to encourage (or discourage) planned gifts and ask your Board and/or Advancement Committee to support policies that encourage planned gifts.

Leverage a transformational planned gift.

Another way to kickstart your planned giving program is to leverage a transformational planned gift. This can either be through a realized planned gift or a new commitment from a living donor. Here’s an example:

An organization in the planning stage of a $10M campaign received notice of a donor who passed away and left the organization $X amount. They used the gift to increase their campaign goal to $X amount, elevating the sights of their donors.

You could also turn a donor’s major planned gift into a legacy challenge that inspires other donors to make planned gifts. This is most powerful when the legacy challenge donor is involved. Consider an announcement of a major planned gift as both a moment to recognize and steward the donor and also to gesture to other donors that they, too, can consider a similar type of gift. Especially if you are considering a campaign, having a monumental planned gift can jumpstart inspiration amongst your other donors because they see how others are majorly investing in the future of your organization. A planned gift of this size can have a huge influence on which donors will come on board next.

Coach and train gift officers to think blended gifts.

Make sure your gift officers are equipped with the tools and knowledge to identify planned giving prospects and introduce planned giving into the conversation. Blended giving is a donor-centric approach that helps the donor think about how they can make the biggest impact on your organization through their full portfolio of assets in the most efficient way. With training and coaching, we have seen gift officers go from strictly asking for cash and pledges to soliciting a variety of blended gift structures. Imagine if every gift officer on your team could identify the signs a donor might be interested in a planned gift, introduce the idea of a planned gift, and work with the donor and their advisors to close the gift. Can your gift officers do this? If not, make sure a coaching and training plan is at the forefront of your planned giving strategy.

We know it can be tricky figuring out the best planned giving approach for your organization. Whatever stage your planned giving program is in, these approaches could help take your program to the next level.

Orr Group has worked with organizations on devising and implementing each of these strategies. If you are interested in working with us to find the right strategy to build a proactive planned giving approach for your organization, get in touch today.

Lauren Hancock - Head of Planned Giving

Lauren Hancock is a Senior Director, Donor Engagement at Orr Group. Lauren brings expertise in planned giving and collaborates with Orr Group’s partners to advise on and implement sophisticated planned giving strategies that drive long-term revenue growth.

Olivia Smith

Olivia Smith is an Associate Director at Orr Group. Olivia works with our partners to develop and execute fundraising strategies and drive revenue to enhance programs and services. Olivia brings expertise in nonprofit management and leadership, public financial management, and public policy.

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