How to Build a Planned Giving Program: The Ultimate Guide

A cornerstone of philanthropy, planned giving is any gift made in part of the donors overall financial planning. In fact, according to Forbes “planned charitable vehicles have become increasingly popular, especially for those who are looking for ways to maximize their generosity and establish charitable legacies.”
Utilizing tax law to increase the gift’s impact on an organization while also providing financial benefits to the donor, planned giving should be a fundamental part of any nonprofit’s fund development program.

• For small or new nonprofits looking to build a planned giving program, the first step is to place all accountability measures in order. Fund development professionals will be approaching savvy donors who are solicited similarly by other organizations throughout the year. An organization should be able to present a transparent financial report and a clear, audited development strategy annually.

• An in-house tax lawyer or qualified consultant is critical in the development of a planned giving program. Often, an organization will be handling not only a donor’s finances, but also that donor’s legacy. Fund developers working in planned giving must also be knowledgeable in accounting terminology, as they will frequently need to represent the organization in meetings with the donors’ financial planners. Further information on federal tax law is available at

• Donor management software is highly recommended in the overall marketing effort of planned giving. An organizations existing major gifts’ donors are the most likely to enter into a planned giving contract with the organization. Strong donor relationships provide the data to know exactly when, how and how much to solicit from these donors. Particularly key times to consider when approaching with a planned giving strategy include any large financial gains, such as business acquisitions or mergers, or life events including births, marriages and deaths.

• Finally, prospecting for new philanthropic relationships with a planned giving marketing strategy is possible, but intensive prospect research should be accomplished first. It is always important to recall that in planned giving, the nonprofit is not only appealing to a prospect or donor’s emotional reaction to the charitable cause, but also to a large degree of financial and estate planning trust. The organization should be prepared, at all times, to present its own financial portfolios and provide total accountability for all monies spent within the fiscal year.

A strong planned giving program is not only valuable to an organization for the financial impact, but also for the invested relationships that it fosters with the donors. These donors, who entrust financial and legacy planning to the organization, are true stewards and ambassadors of the charitable cause, and serve as a community marketing team of unparalleled effectiveness.

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