Common misunderstandings and excuses

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Common Misunderstandings and Excuses for Not Getting Started in Gift Planning

Courtesy of Mary Downey, Downey and Associates, Alliance for Children and Families Magazine.

Gift planning is only for the wealthy and we do not have wealthy donors

False. Research shows that the majority of planned giving donors are ordinary folks. In fact, your consistent, loyal donors are your best candidates. And while these donors may not be able to give you a "major" gift during their lifetimes because they need their income-producing assets while they are living, they may be interested in giving your organization these assets through an estate gift.

Other good prospects for planned gifts include:

  • older lapsed donors who were previously regular donors;
  • current and former board members;
  • people with long-term involvement with your organization, e.g. staff and volunteers;
  • donors who are single women or men;
  • widows or widowers;
  • childless couples; and
  • unmarried donors

Gift planning is highly technical and we would need an expert on the staff to promote these gifts

False and true. Some planned gifts require more technical expertise than others. By concentrating initially on simpler gift plans, you can begin a planned giving program without having tax and legal experts on staff. In the early stages of developing their planned giving programs, some organizations use an advisory group of board members, donors, or volunteers who have this expertise.

The key is planning and executing a well-thought-out strategy, which reflects the needs and available resources of your non-profit. Whether you use in-house staff or an outside consultant, developing a workable plan that incorporates budgeting, marketing, and staffing is essential.

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What type of planned gifts should you promote to your donors in a start-up program?

Simple bequests, gifts from insurance policies, and gifts from retirement accounts are easy to promote and easy for donors to understand. Bequests (gifts through wills) are by far the most common "planned gift" for all charities.

We must offer the full menu of planned giving options if we start a program
False. Closely related to the second common myth, this is not true and, in many cases, is not even a good idea. See the response above, and remember that you do not have to start your program by offering every possible planned giving option to your donors. A new program that starts small and grows with your expertise and needs is often a better alternative.


My board just does not get it when I try to explain why we need to start talking about planned gifts with our donors.

While it is true that without proper education your board will not get it, you can start helping by educating the board (and staff) about the benefits of incorporating a planned giving program into the overall fundraising effort.

Start by educating yourself. Attend seminars and workshops about gift planning and join the Canadian Association of Gift Planners CAGP.

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You also may consider bringing in an expert. Someone outside the organization can often better explain why the board should consider supporting planned giving, the benefits to the non-profit when donors have the planned giving option available, and what the board's role will be in the success of the program.

Finally, it will be extremely helpful if you can identify a current or former board member who has already made a planned gift or is who is willing to be your cheerleader for the planned giving program to the rest of the board.


A gift planning program will cannibalize our annual fund

False. On the contrary, a well planned and executed planned giving program can enhance the overall fundraising program.

Committing to a planned gift strengthens the relationship your donor has with your non-profit. In fact, including a charity in an estate plan elevates the status of your organization in the eyes of the donor to that of "family."

Studies have shown that annual giving may even increase from these donors as they feel a closer connection to you.

At times, older donors find it difficult to part with current dollars or continue their annual gifts to you because they need the income.

However, they may be more than willing to instead consider a deferred gift to a charity they deeply care for. This allows them to continue their relationship with you, even if they have to curtail their current gifts at some point."

Last modified: Monday, 4 February 2013, 9:19 AM