Planned Giving Strategies – Tools & Tips

Creating Legacy Giving Campaigns

Some of your donors are trying to decide right now which organization they feel is worthy enough to receive their assets after they pass away. The reality is that a donor’s planned gift is in direct correlation to the type of relationship he/she has with an organization. “Planned Giving Strategies—Tools & Tips” provides essential information about how to build relationships by using multi-channel communications to cultivate and steward planned givers.

Building and maintaining a portfolio of planned giving donors requires diligence and an effective strategy. If your organization doesn’t have a planned giving program or needs a refresh, this article is for you.

What is a Planned Giving Program?

A planned giving program provides a way for a donor to contribute to an organization after they have passed away. Donors make financial plans in the present for their funds to be used by an organization in the future. They are often made as a part of a donor’s financial or estate plans.

Planned Giving Options

The three primary planned giving options are: 1) bequests (property, cash, tangible assets, etc., that are left in a will), 2) annuities (fixed sums of money paid to an organization each year), and 3) trusts (used to reduce a person’s taxable income by dispersing earnings to the beneficiary/organization.)

Identifying Planned Giving Donors

The potential planned giver should be identified by prospect research within your organization’s database. Many nonprofits have discovered that, typically, planned givers are those donors who are loyal supporters. They oftentimes give small, frequent donations over a 12-year period. They are frequently, but not always, older in age, not married, childless, and property owners.

Planned givers want to preserve their legacy. Donors first begin thinking about this between the ages of 40 and 60. There are companies that utilize sophisticated segmentation and statistical analysis that can help identify prospective legacy donors for your organization.

A Planned Giving Story

An interesting story I’d like to share is about my client’s donor. He contributed several small gifts every year which amounted to approximately $845 over 10 years.

He was a frequent donor but, by all means, not a high-dollar donor. I worked with my client to put a planned giving program in place. In year 11, this donor gave the organization a whopping $1 million dollar bequest. He was only 53 years old. 

He informed the executive director that his decision to make a planned gift was a result of the information he began receiving from the organization about its planned giving program.

Four other donors gave a total of over $3 million in bequests. These donors had only given a total of $1,870 over the course of 9 years. 

How to Promote a Planned Giving Strategy?

These legacy gifts didn’t just appear out of thin air. The organization received them as a result of having a multi-channel planned giving strategy in place. This is where Write Choice Marketing can help.

Creating a Planned Giving Multi-Channel Strategy

A planned giving program, often called a legacy program, is a strategy used for the cultivation and lifetime stewardship of legacy givers. It is used to forge strong relationships with the donor. Multi-channel communication is key to building and maintaining meaningful donor relationships with potential and existing legacy givers.

A strong planned giving campaign reaches donors through many channels and will not only cultivate planned giving leads, but will concurrently steward current planned givers.

What’s Needed for a Multi-Channel Planned Giving Program?

Multi-channel planned giving programs provide opportunities to pique interest and get the donor thinking about making a long-term commitment to your organization. Because we never know at what point a person will actually take action, this is a process that needs to be ongoing.

Getting a planned giver to commit is, more often than not, a lengthy process.

Use all or a combination of these vehicles to motivate the donor to become a planned giver and to sustain them for years to come:

  • A dedicated web page
  • A brochure
  • Direct mail letter appeals
  • Self-mailers
  • Postcards
  • Email appeals
  • Newsletters

Create a Dedicated Web Page

Working with a client who wished to strengthen their planned giving efforts, Write Choice Marketing began by examining their website. It was missing a dedicated planned giving page.

We provided content about planned giving options, included high-quality images, and worked with their in-house web person to create a landing page where donors could request more information.

Design a Planned Giving Brochure

We created a persuasive planned giving brochure for donors requesting more information. Details about planned giving options and answers to common questions were included. In addition, donor-centric copy conveyed an ongoing need along with highlights of program successes.

Bullet points, graphics, and other visuals effectively highlighted the core message. The brochure included the client’s mission statement, contact information, and a strong call to action.

Utilize Direct Mail and Email

Research shows direct mail letter appeals are the most effective way to market legacy giving. Potential planned givers respond to compelling stories about the people or cause an organization serves. Emotional storytelling moves donors to take action. Planned giving direct mail packages entice donors to request information about legacy giving.

Postcards and self-mailers are effective vehicles for staying in front of the donor and piquing interest.

Email appeals provide additional ongoing communication to the donor at a relatively low cost.

Write Choice Marketing’s clients have had great success with direct mail letter appeals and email appeal series. We crafted six solicitation letters and eight email appeals over a 2-year period. Our client sent them to a select group of donors that the organization identified as potential planned givers.

Write Choice Marketing wrote inspirational stories about how legacy donors feel after including the organization in their estate plans. In addition, we included emotionally charged stories about the long-term needs of the organization’s constituents.

Donor stories are effective ways to reach and engage with planned givers.

The reply form contained several checkoff boxes. They provided the donor with the opportunity to request more information about bequests, charitable trusts, and gift annuities.

Email recipients responded to a specific landing page, with similar checkoff boxes.

Send Planned Giving Newsletters

Branded newsletters help donors connect emotionally to the organization.

We created 2 planned giving newsletters a year for our client.

The planned giving donor-centric newsletters focused on emotional success stories about the organization’s constituents. They included new-program initiatives made possible by planned giving dollars and compelling stories from planned giving donors about why they decided to give. We branded the newsletter with a unique name appealing to legacy givers.

The end result was a newsletter that proved to be an effective communication vehicle for keeping potential donors informed and legacy givers up to date.

Providing thoughtful, cohesive, and emotionally persuasive efforts across all channels brings in new legacy givers and provides long-term stewardship as well.

Other Planned Giving Fundraising Strategies

Consider including a planned giving buckslip or flyer in your existing annual appeals and with your donor acknowledgments that provide basic information about the program.

Seminars about planned giving opportunities are excellent ways to attract and inform potential legacy givers.

Schedule In-Person Meetings

Face-to-face meetings go a long way toward building a relationship. The process of planned giving can be complicated and overwhelming for donors. When that first inquiry comes through, in-person conversations can put the donor at ease and assure them they’ll be placing their finances in good hands.

Inform potential legacy givers about the different planned giving options. Talk about how the funds from planned giving initiatives will benefit those you serve well into the future.

Create a Legacy Giving Society

A legacy society honors those who have included the organization in their will or estate plan. Donor recognition through a legacy-giving society is a highly meaningful acknowledgment.

When a donor commits to making a planned gift, immediately thank them with a phone call. Afterwards, follow up with a welcome letter informing them about the benefits of the society.

Benefits could be: access to special events, personal updates from the executive director, the planned giving newsletter, and their name listed in the annual report and on a “legacy wall of fame.”

Plaques affixed to benches and trees, or personalized pavers are other ways to acknowledge a planned giver as a member of the legacy society and are a lasting testament to their generosity and commitment to the organization.

The Truth About Planned Giving

  • A donor’s planned gift is a direct correlation to the type of relationship he/she has with the organization.
  • The scope and scale of planned gifts are worth the commitment…and the wait.
  • Successful planned giving strategies utilize multi-channel campaigns.
  • Branded newsletters, brochures, and website pages increase success.
  • Simple direct mail packages and email appeals get results.
  • People give to people or causes, not to organizations. Planned givers respond to compelling stories about the people or cause an organization serves.
  • Emotional storytelling moves donors to take action.

What Makes a Planned Giving Program Successful?

The Problem

Building and maintaining a portfolio of planned giving donors requires diligence. Efforts to grow and maintain relationships require consistent and targeted communication.

You have donors who want to make a difference, and they want to be part of the good work you do. That’s why it’s important to have a system in place to cultivate and sustain planned givers. The problem for most fundraisers is finding the time to do it all and to do it well.

The Solution

Let Write Choice Marketing create a multi-channel planned giving strategy targeted to your organization’s goals and budget. We’ll create a plan and a schedule for what to create for maximum impact.

Write Choice Marketing will handle the copywriting for all the components – cultivating emotional stories and enhancing them with compelling photographs that inspire donors to become planned givers.

We recommend you use your own graphic designer, printer, mailhouse, and email deployment program to save costs. We can manage and coordinate these efforts for you if needed.

Write Choice Marketing offers coordinated, and targeted communication efforts to make any development professional’s life just a little bit easier. Contact us today for a free 30-minute consultation.

Write Choice Marketing—Helping nonprofits maximize donations through compelling copy, engaging content, and donor responsive strategies that get results.


One more thing. Can you do me a favor? Is there someone else in your organization who could benefit from this article? Please consider sharing it with others. Thank you!