Strategic Planned Giving How To Drive Sustainable Success At Your Institution
Planned Giving Published Date, 2023

Strategic Planned Giving: How To Drive Sustainable Success At Your Institution

Created By: Victoria Becker, Sarah May Campbell, and Caitlin Rettaliata
November 15, 2023

Nonprofit organizations across the sector, and independent schools in particular, often channel their energy into annual funds and major gifts during fundraising campaigns. However, planned giving, which is sometimes relegated to the sidelines, holds significant untapped potential. Contrary to the misconception that it’s a luxury reserved for well-funded teams, more institutions are recognizing the value of incorporating planned giving into their fundraising programs.

Orr Group recently convened a group of independent school advancement leaders from Baltimore and surrounding areas to share ideas and learn from each other about how these institutions are incorporating planned giving into their strategies. We were honored to be joined by co-host Lynne Brynes, Director of Stewardship and Planned Giving at the Bryn Mawr School, as well as 15 other independent schools in the area whose planned giving programs ranged in maturity from ‘fully-fledged’ to ‘just getting started’. The perspectives shared were just as varied. 

Attending organizations included Archbishop Spalding High School, Boys’ Latin School of Maryland, Bryn Mawr School, Calvert School, Friends School of Baltimore, Garrison Forest School, Gilman School, Key School, Loyola Blakefield, Maryvale Preparatory School, Notre Dame Preparatory School, St. James Academy, St, Paul’s Schools, Waldorf School of Baltimore.

Below are several key questions attendees brought to the table, and the answers that came out of our robust conversation.

1. How do you get your Board on board with planned giving? 

Many advancement officers expressed a struggle with convincing their Board “why” they should be investing in a planned giving program. Demonstrating the return on investment (ROI) is crucial in gaining the support of your board. Showcase how planned giving translates into an increase in cash flow now, supporting both immediate needs and future initiatives.

When making your case, be sure to emphasize the following points:

Long-Term Planning for Success

A strong planned giving program is akin to planting seeds for a flourishing future. It provides a stable foundation for the organization, ensuring its longevity and sustained impact. And in an ever-changing economic landscape, planned giving offers stability. It allows your organization to weather financial uncertainties and adapt to economic shifts.

Increased Cash Flow from PG Donors

Planned giving isn’t just about the future; it can bring immediate benefits. By cultivating relationships with donors who include your organization in their estate plans, you can secure a reliable source of funds that helps meet current needs. Planned giving has been found to trigger a 75% increase in annual gifts, with bequest donors increasing their annual giving by more than $3,000 in the following years. Those who have shown their commitment through an estate gift tend to be more inclined to support the organization’s current needs so they can start to see the impact of their giving during their lifetime.

Increased Capacity for Campaign Goals

Incorporating planned giving with intentionality at the outset of a campaign equips your organization with the capacity to take on ambitious campaign goals. It provides the financial backing needed for projects ranging from infrastructure development to program expansion. Be sure to strike a balance between immediate financial needs, such as capital projects, and the capacity to defer funds. This thoughtful approach ensures that your organization can thrive both in the present and the future.

2. For those just starting out, how do you start a planned giving program with no budget? And for those more established, what elements are a part of your program?

Small Ways

Even with limited resources, there are simple yet effective ways to introduce planned giving. A dedicated section on your website and a series of targeted marketing emails or annual appeals can subtly promote this option to your supporters. If you don’t have a planned giving program in place, consider this an opportunity to evaluate interest within the community and begin educating donors about alternative ways they can support and heighten their impact with a simple bequest intention.

Medium Ways

Allocate part of a Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) to planned giving, establish comprehensive documentation and policies, invest in staff training, and implement donor education initiatives. These steps create a solid foundation for integrating planned giving into your organizational culture and overall development approach.

Big Ways

Elevate planned giving by making it a board requirement, organizing special events, creating exclusive societies for legacy donors, and integrating it into broader campaigns. This not only raises awareness among constituents but also positions planned giving as a pivotal aspect of your organization’s fundraising strategy. You can also begin to incorporate more complex planned giving vehicles, such as charitable gift annuities, life insurance, and gifts of stock. Beyond their philanthropic impact, these vehicles are great conversation starters and cultivation tools for finance-minded donors who view philanthropy as an investment to both maximize their assets and leave a lasting mark.

3. Who are you targeting for planned gifts, and how are you approaching them? 

Many organizations are starting to have planned giving conversations with constituents as early as 40 years old, and some even earlier. For those organizations looking to document and count bequest gifts towards your campaign and fundraising goals, consider focusing on those aged 65 and older. Identify consistent donors over the last decade and individuals in the process of will writing. Those without dependents can also be strategic targets for planned giving.

What about alumni vs. parents?

Targeting alumni for planned giving can be particularly effective. Alumni often have a deep connection to the institution and may be more inclined to contribute to its long-term success.

When engaging past parents in planned giving, consider requesting a gift in honor of their children to add a personal touch. Highlighting the impact on future generations can be a compelling motivator.

4. Are you documenting your bequests, and if so, what information are you including in your documentation? 

Any major gift intention or endowed bequest gift should be documented. Choose a level that’s right for your organization, such as gifts over $100k. Create a gift agreement like you would for any major or endowed gift that includes the donor’s intention, naming (if applicable), and an estimated amount. Request that the donor share with you the first, last, and relevant pages (those that mention your organization) of their will. Emphasize the importance of ensuring the donor’s intentions are accurately captured while they are still present, fostering a sense of continuity and impact.

When tracking bequests internally, it’s crucial to capture essential details such as the estimated gift amount and the donor’s age. These details provide a comprehensive understanding of your planned giving landscape.

As was evident throughout our conversation, planned giving isn’t just a strategy for well-endowed institutions; it’s a dynamic tool that can be tailored to suit the unique needs and capacities of independent schools and nonprofits, wherever they are in their journey. By embracing planned giving as an integral part of your fundraising program, you’re not just securing financial support for today, but laying the groundwork for a resilient and impactful future.

It’s never too late to develop a planned giving strategy. Orr Group has the expertise to support your organization in all areas of planned giving, from strategy development to management and administration. Get in touch with us to learn more.

Victoria Becker is an Associate Director at Orr Group. Victoria collaborates with our partners to develop and execute fundraising strategies and drive revenue to enhance programs and services. Victoria specializes in fundraising campaigns and crafting effective messaging.

Headshot of Sarah May Campbell.

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

Caitlin Rettaliata is a Director at Orr Group. Caitlin partners with nonprofits to develop, implement, and execute innovative fundraising strategies with a specialty in leading development operations.

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