Recently I was talking with a client about their fundraising programs and I asked if they did any planned giving.  As with almost everyone, the answer was no.  I started thinking about why so many organizations don’t do this.  Was it because people didn’t want to think about death and dying?  Was it because it was just another avenue of asking for money, which makes some people uncomfortable?  Or was it a combination of both – the awkwardness of asking people to give money when they’re gone?  Instead of thinking to yourself, how awful it is to ask someone to give money when they’re gone, think of how you will be able to fulfill a last wish.

People donate because they want to, because it makes them feel good and brings them joy.  And it’s actually much easier than you think to have that conversation with your donor.  You could start passively.  This doesn’t even need you to say anything:

  1. If you have an email signature at work, add “A bequest is your gift to the future.  Please remember (my organization) in your plans.”
  2. On any direct mailing pieces you send out, on the donor reply card, add at the bottom “When planning for today, remember to plan for tomorrow.  Contact us today to find out more about planned giving.”
  3. Don’t forget about your website.  Provide information about starting planned giving, and remember to include the name, email address and phone number of the person they should reach out to at your organization.

Next would be broaching the subject with your donors.  The next time you meet with a donor, while discussing their current donation, you could ask if they’ve thought about including your organization in their will.  If they have, fabulous!  If not, but they seem interested, start a dialogue.  Let them know that there are ways to give that won’t be a financial burden on them now but that could allow them to make a substantial impact on the organization down the line.  Make sure you keep the conversation focused on the donor and their interests.

It’s not necessary for you to be an expert on the different types of ways they can do this.  Direct them to speak with their financial planner on how best to make a bequest that benefits both them and your organization.

Reaching out to your donor to make plans for tomorrow lets them help ensure you will be around to continue doing what they love.  And that is a joyful thing indeed.

–Courtney Rheuban


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