Money from Heaven and Paying it Forward!

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Having been a fundraiser for over 20 years, I know how easy it is to push off planned giving and endowment development to another day. Heck, the nonprofits I had worked for had been doing it for 100 years! After all, you need the money now, not years from now! Why spend time on something that won’t be rewarding you anytime soon… if ever!

So many nonprofit leaders fall into this trap and it’s totally understandable. There are only so many hours in the day and most of us are understaffed and already at full bandwith with our time.

However, has your organization ever been blessed with an unexpected gift…the proverbial “money from heaven” gift… a check that came unexpectedly from some former board member or a supporter that NOBODY knew? If you have, it felt good, didn’t it? You probably slept a bit better that night! I can tell you first-hand that an unexpected bequest saved my organization from cutting essential programs or cutting staff a couple of times.

I recently had this conversation with a Development Director over lunch. He had only been on the job for a little less than a year when he unexpectedly received two, six-figure gifts in the course of six months from two people that nobody in the organization knew. In researching who these people were, he discovered that, back in the day, the organization had made a real effort to discuss planned giving with their supporters and had a committee of volunteers who focused on planned giving. They secured commitments from people who stated their intention to leave a gift for the organization in their wills.

Well, you know how it goes: leadership changes, priorities shift, people retire and move away and record get lost. Before you know it, names were forgotten. But what I found compelling about our conversation was what the Development Director said next: “I wish I could have known these people who were planning to leave us with such an important gift so that I could thank them, maybe even honor them, and perhaps inspire some current supporters to think the same way.”

But perhaps most enlightening was his next statement. “Don’t I now owe it to the person who is going to hold this position 30 years from now an opportunity to receive gifts like this?” Needless to say, he is now making sure that creating a planned giving culture is an important part of his overall fundraising strategy.

Even if it can only be a small part of your fundraising efforts, shouldn’t the creation of a planned giving culture be a part of your organization’s overall plan? Still think it’s not worth the time? Here are five facts about planned giving that I hope change your mind:

  • Once a person includes a gift for your organization in their Will the likelihood you will receive the gift is over 90%!
  • On average, one planned gift equals 400 annual campaign donations.
  • The average bequest in the US is between $35,000 – $70,000
  • Statically, 30% to 40% of your donors are considered good bequest/Planned Giving prospects.
  • 82% of donors who make a planned gift will continue to give at the same level or even increase their annual gift.

The facts make a powerful case – isn’t it time to think about the future?

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