Planned Giving Published Date, 2023

How Stewardship Can Increase The Short-Term Benefits Of Your Planned Giving Strategy

Created By: Sarah May Campbell and Madelyne Grim
January 26, 2023

The long-term benefits of adding blended and planned giving strategies to your nonprofit’s development plan are clear:

  • It ensures funds for the future of the organization.
  • It gives your donors the opportunity to leave their legacy with a mission they care about.
  • It maximizes a donor’s impact by allowing them to make a larger donation than they could with an outright gift.

You might be thinking, that’s all well and good, but my organization needs cash now; we can’t invest in a program that we won’t see the benefits of for years to come. But did you know that planned giving has been found to trigger a 75% increase in annual gifts? Or that some organizations receive more than 25% of their annual revenue from planned gifts?

It’s a common misconception that there are no short-term benefits to a blended or planned giving program. Not only might you see an increase in your annual giving revenue, but you can also help boost campaign progress, raise a donor’s sights and multiply the possibilities for impact, and bring a donor closer to your organization by proactively stewarding their legacy gifts during their lifetime.

Below are several of our recommendations to grow organization affinity and annual giving through stewardship of legacy gifts:

1. Share letters from recipients or stories of programs their gift will benefit in the future. For example, if someone establishes a scholarship bequest, send the donor letters from current scholarship recipients. The donor may be so inspired and want to develop a relationship with their own scholar that they may reconsider starting an endowed scholarship during their lifetime.

2. If their gift is for a specific program or department, put them in touch with current program officers and department heads. Having your donor build a relationship with the current faculty or staff may lead to increased outright gifts for the program now so that they can support those they have a relationship with.

3. Recognize donors publicly through articles and interviews on planned gifts to your organization. These can also serve as testimonials to inspire others to consider a planned or blended gift, and educate donors about different planned giving vehicles and tax benefits.

4. Create a legacy society or legacy circle to foster a sense of community through special gatherings and events with other planned giving donors and prospects. Send legacy society members a welcome letter from your CEO or Board Chair, along with a specialized gift for the society. Bringing them into the fold this way will help to foster their connection with the organization and can also be an opportunity to share organizational knowledge and build strong advocates in your community. 

5. Invite your bequest donors to volunteer on committees or serve as advocates at events. They’ve already shown their commitment to your organization in a meaningful way by choosing to leave you a part of their legacy, and including them in additional events and roles can not only help to inspire others to become involved and give, but could increase their annual and planned gift as well.  

How does planned giving stewardship play out in real life? Let us walk you through this real-world example…

A donor who had only ever given about $2k - $5k to the organization annually read an article about a planned gift from another donor and got in touch with the development office to ask about how he could maximize his impact. He started out by choosing to establish a graduate fellowship for students in a specific department with a bequest gift of $750k. To thank him, the development office sent him an annual stewardship letter from current graduate fellows, and simultaneously, the department chair began to develop a relationship with the donor on his own. He eventually was asked to serve on a committee, and through that, developed a relationship with the dean. Eventually, the donor increased his estate gift to leave the organization two professorships (a value over $6M), begin the graduate fellowship endowment during his lifetime, and increase his annual giving to the department to $10k/year.

Now, not all planned giving stewardship will result in a story like that. But you may be surprised at just how soon you’ll begin to see the return on your investment with a well-stewarded planned giving program.

To learn more about how to create a planned giving strategy and/or use stewardship to boost the impact of your planned gifts today, get in touch with one of our planned giving experts.


Headshot of Sarah May Campbell.

Sarah May Campbell is Director at Orr Group, specializing in planned giving strategy, major and principal gifts, stewardship, and donor relations.

Headshot of Madelyne Grim.

Madelyne Grim is an Associate Director at Orr Group. She is a member of the firm's planned giving committee which promotes the learning and development of planned giving strategy firmwide.

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