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Getting Started with a Legacy Gift Program

Nonprofits of all sizes, shapes, and durations should consider instituting a planned (or legacy) giving program…so donors can learn how they can make gifts through a will or trust or other method, to further the long-term purposes of a nonprofit organizations they care about.

I recommend this article published by Wiley in 2003 as a good basic document for nonprofits to read, discuss, and use to get a legacy program started.

You will find it through an online search.

HANK ROSSO’S ACHIEVING EXCELLENCE IN FUNDRAISING (ISBN:
0787962562). Copyright © (2003) by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. This material is used by
permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc

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Introducing Donors to Legacy Giving

Wills and Trusts (Planned Gifts) can be significant sources of revenue for your nonprofit organizations. It all starts with the right approach to your donors. How do you broach the subject: “Please remember us in your will.”
One place to start is in your newsletter. I recommend that you have a short paragraph or two in an easy-to-find place that lets your supporters know they can approach a designated person on your team who, at their request, will advise them on how to go about identifying your nonprofit as a beneficiary in their will or trust.
Who is the right person associated with your nonprofit to provide this service?
If you have a qualified, full-service development director who has experience in this area you are all set.
But not all nonprofits are so blessed.
My suggestion is that your nominating committee recruit an estate planner to become a member of your board. And if not a board member, then perhaps a member of your development committee. This is a person who will talk with your donors on a pro bono basis, advising them on language they should ask their attorney to insert in their will or trust.
Further, you might have the name of three to five attorneys at local law firms who are qualified estate planners who will welcome referrals if a donor contacts your office seeing an attorney to help them write a will. I strongly advise that no one associated with your nonprofit prepare the document for your donor. This is (in my view) a conflict of interest.
I also recommend that you take a look at my post of January 23, 2012 “Simple Plan to Start a Planned Giving Program” for more tips on getting this revenue stream going for your organization.

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Building a Planned Giving Program from Ground Up

At some point, each nonprofit organization should have a Planned Giving Program. The question is, when is the right time to get started in asking donors to consider naming your nonprofit in their will or trust?

I think Planned Giving logically follows the annual fund. As your annual fund grows, maybe by the fifth year, and you have a newsletter in place, it’s the right time to make your nonprofit a beneficiary. It helps, too, to have an estate planner on your board. A person with expertise in writing wills or working with financial institutions in creating trust documents that can protect assets from probate. It’s very important to identify an experienced attorney in this area. Some States have Estate Planning Councils, and some States have persons certified to prepare such documents.

If your donor requests some help in this regard, you can provide some language to recommend for inclusion in the person’s will. I do not recommend that the nonprofit get involved in recommending specific attorneys to write wills. there should be an “arm’s length” relationship between the donor and the nonprofit so there is no conflict of interest that can call the ethics or even the legality of a document into question.

But if you look at newsletters of universities, hospitals, and voluntary health organizations you will see ads or articles on this subject with recommendations that the individual follow up with a person in the development office for advice on how to proceed. Your nonprofit may not have a development office. But you can have a volunteer attorney with estate planning experience who can assist you properly and help guide donors in a proper and ethical way.

There are other kinds of options to investigate, like charitable remainder trusts that can be beneficial to the donor and to the nonprofit. There are specialists in this area who can advise you on how to implement a program. My suggestion is, as your fundraising/development effort matures you should install a Planned Giving program. Recruiting the proper advice will help to you avoid pitfalls that can sour a relationship with an important donor.

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Talking With Donors About Planned Gifts

Wills and Trusts (Planned Gifts) can be significant sources of revenue for your nonprofit organizations. It all starts with the right approach with your donors. How do you broach the subject: “Please remember us in your will.”
One place to start is in your newsletter. I recommend that you have a short paragraph or two in an easy-to-find place that lets your supporters know they can approach a designated person on your team who can advise them on how to go about identifying your nonprofit as a beneficiary in their will or trust.
Who is the right person associated with your nonprofit to provide this service?
If you have a qualified, full-service development director who has experience in this area you are all set.
But not all nonprofits are so blessed.
My suggestion is that your nominating committee recruit an estate planner to become a member of your board. And if not a board member, then perhaps a member of your development committee. This is a person who will talk with your donors on a pro bono basis, advising them on language they should ask their attorney to insert in their will or trust.
Further, you might have the name of three to five attorneys at local law firms who are qualified estate planners who will welcome referrals if a donor contacts your office seeing an attorney to help them write a will. I strongly advise that no one associated with your nonprofit prepare the document for your donor. This is (in my view) a conflict of interest.
I also recommend that you take a look at my post of January 23, 2012 “Simple Plan to Start a Planned Giving Program” for more tips on getting this revenue stream going for your organization.

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Raising Money from the Ground Floor: Setting Strategy

There are many ways to engage your nonprofit board in raising money.

No Strategy in place? If you’re raising $$ without a plan, it’s time to craft one. When staff, board and stakeholders in your nonprofit mission are clear about direction, programmatic as well as raising money, you have some things to hang your hat on.

First: What’s the fundraising environment for your nonprofit? Starting with reports like Giving USA from the Giving Institute at University of Indiana. It’s among the most highly reliable sources of data on annual giving by Americans as recorded on IRS tax reports. Very useful to see trends in your and related categories of nonprofits.

Second: What’s happening in your neck of the woods? Check with a local community foundation, or your Statewide association of nonprofits for data. Is data available by category of nonprofit mission? By budget size? By number of years in business? Look for data that helps you compare where you are and set a course that will make sense based on realities in your marketplace.

Third: How will you raise the dough? I recommend that you start with the annual appeal. Identify two or three strategies (Who are your best prospects? What are the range of gifts you’re going for? Will you identify prospects for face-to-face solicitation?).
What role will special events play in your plan?
How will you cultivate planned and memorial gifts?

Getting organized, and targeting fundraising goals that will meet the needs of the program you’re offering, are important considerations for you.

And clarifying the role of the board in this enterprise is another must.

Paying attention to these elements will help get your fundraising strategy off to a strong start!

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