Basic Planned Giving Program

Dear Kim,

Like many smaller nonprofits, my organizations has a very basic planned giving program. We mail out packets of general information on wills/trusts to interested donors and have been fortunate to receive bequests every year. We also know there many more people who would be interested in putting us in their estate plans. Unfortunately, we’re holding ourselves back-pooled income funds, charitable remainder trusts, etc. are all beyond our expertise. How do you suggest we handle this? Is it worthwhile to learn the ins and outs of planned giving, is it better to hire someone, or should we refer donors to attorneys and trust companies?


There are at least two answers to this question, and first answer begins with a question for you: are you interested in learning the ins and outs of planned giving? If so, it may make sense to do it in-house. Planned giving law is actually fascinating and some people become very taken with learning all they can.

However, most of us are content to be fascinated from a distance. You are already doing way more than most small nonprofits and you should be proud of yourselves. Gifts made through wills and trusts are going to grow exponentially as baby boomers age out and you are ahead of the curve by having a program in place already.

Remember that six out of ten Americans die without a will, so your efforts to get people to include you in their will or trust are very important. Getting people to even think about what is going to happen to their stuff when they die is the hardest part of planned giving. I would not move into the more complicated vehicles, but rather I would approach your local community foundation and ask them to hold these endowment funds for you. This is a service that many community foundations offer. They are set up with whole planned giving departments and are working with donors all the time. Generally, there is a very low fee for this service because the assets that are left to the community foundation to be used for your group are what are really valuable. You are paid the 5% a year that you would draw off these investments. You do not own the asset, which can be perceived as a disadvantage, but you also don’t have to manage and worry about the asset, which is a great advantage.

Best wishes in this important endeavor.