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, 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 using multi-channel communications – to cultivate and steward planned givers.

Building and maintaining a portfolio of planned giving donors requires an effective strategy and diligence.

If your organization doesn’t have a planned giving program or needs a refresh, this article is for you.

What is Planned Giving?

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 the 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; bequests (property, cash, tangible asset, etc. left in a will), annuities (a fixed sum of money paid to an organization each year), and 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, never married, have no children, and own property.

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, and 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 $1870 over 9 years. 

Myth 1: A planned giver is not always a high-dollar donor or over the age of 65.

Myth 2: Multi-channel planned giving communications work.

The legacy gifts didn’t just appear out of thin air. The organization received them because they had a multi-channel planned giving strategy.

This is where Write Choice Marketing can help.

Planned Giving Program

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.

Cultivating Legacy Givers

Multi-Channel Planned Giving Communications

Strong planned giving campaigns reach donors through many channels. It’s why a multi-channel, multi-year, planned giving strategy provides both the cultivation and stewardship of legacy giving donors.

What’s needed:

Dedicated web page



Direct mail letter appeals

Email appeals

Legacy Giving Society

The main purpose of these promotions is to get the donor to engage with your organization.

They 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.

Dedicated Website 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 included information about planned giving options, high-quality images, and a landing page where donors could request more information.

Legacy Giving Brochure

A persuasive legacy brochure was created 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. It included the client’s mission statement, contact information, and a strong call to action.

Direct Mail and Email

Research shows direct mail letter appeals are the most effective way to market legacy giving. A planned giving direct mail package is used to entice donors to request information about legacy giving.

Email appeals are used to 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 plan. We also included emotionally charged stories about the long-term needs of the organization’s constituents.

Did you know? 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 check-off boxes

Branded newsletters help donors connect emotionally to the organization.

Planned Giving Newsletters

To round off the campaign, 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. The newsletter was branded with a unique name appealing to legacy givers.

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

We provided thoughtful, cohesive, and emotionally persuasive efforts across all channels. The multi-channel campaign brought in new legacy givers and provided long-term stewardship as well.

Other Ways to Attract Legacy Givers

Consider including a planned giving buckslip in your annual appeals and with your donor acknowledgments. Seminars about planned giving opportunities are also excellent ways to attract and inform potential legacy givers.

Stewardship is Important!

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, thank them immediately with a phone call. Then, 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, 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 into the legacy society – 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.

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 us create a planned giving strategy and write the copy for you.

We will create a multi-channel annual planned giving campaign targeted to your organization’s goals and budget.

We will determine what your organization needs and create a schedule for when to send the direct mail letters, email appeals, and newsletters for maximum impact.

You will receive content for the brochure, website page, and legacy society letter that ties everything together.

We will handle copywriting (and interviewing if needed) for the letters, newsletters, and email series and work with you to find and cultivate emotional stories that inspire donors to become planned givers.

Write Choice Marketing offers consistent, 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.


One more thing. Can you do me a favor? Is there someone else in your organization who could benefit from this article.? If there is, please forward these planned giving tools & tips to them. Thank you!