Planned Giving – Get Started With 2 Easy Steps


Sometimes the thought of starting something new can be more daunting than actually doing it. That’s how I felt about planned giving. I used to think that I needed to know about tax law, insurance, estate planning tools, and more before I could even think about dipping my toe in the planned giving pool.

Not so! The Achilles heel of planned giving is that a lot of development professionals—maybe you?—are intimidated by the tools and terminology, and lose sight of the spirit of this awesome fundraising opportunity.

Numbers tell the story of why it’s worth your time to explore planned giving, even in a very small way. Most people of means keep only about 10% of their assets in cash. The rest are tied up in investments, property, real estate and other non-liquid vehicles. Doesn’t it make sense then to offer your donors a way to support your organization through assets other than cold, hard cash?

Here are 2 really easy steps any organization can take to open itself to the most common types of planned gifts:


Communicate to donors that they may support your organization by including it in their estate plan (aka their will). You can bake this message into communication pieces you already use – no need to create something new. Simply add a sentence to your annual fund letter or brochure. Include it in your annual report or monthly e-newsletter. All you have to do is announce the opportunity. Let the donor work with their attorney on the technicalities of adding your organization to their will. When you receive money through a donor’s will, it is called a bequest.

Stock Gifts

As above, communicate to donors that your organization accepts gifts of appreciated securities (aka shares of stock). What you are saying here is that a donor can contribute to your organization by transferring shares of stock he owns instead of writing a check for cash. Donors can leverage significant tax benefits by supporting charities in this manner. To accept a stock gift, your organization will need to have a brokerage account, but these are not hard to set up. Sometimes community foundations offer inexpensive brokerage services for nonprofits. Alternatively, a board member from the finance community might be able to help with this.

That’s it! Two easy steps and you are ankle-deep in the world of planned giving! To learn more, check out planned giving affinity groups in your state or region of the country. In Colorado, we have the Colorado Planned Giving Roundtable—a great resource for novices and experts alike. 

What basic strategies do you use to encourage planned giving? How do you communicate these options to your donors? Let me know in the Comments box below.

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