Memento Mori: 4 Steps to Launch Your Planned Giving Program

Nonprofit planned giving program represented by an up-close of a will and glasses

Professional fundraisers often shy away from building a planned giving program for one simple reason: talking to donors about death just isn’t fun. They also see these programs as onerous, complex, and devoid of immediate benefits. But this shouldn’t be the case! Setting up a planned giving program will only benefit your organization in the long run, and it’s much easier than you think.

Now that you’ve decided to launch a planned giving program, here’s a short to-do list that will help you get the ball rolling:

Step 1:

Brand your planned giving program with a unique name and logo. Your program should have distinct branding, but shouldn’t be inconsistent with your overall messaging. Additionally, offer benefits you can easily fulfill and that match your branding. Setting up a quarterly conference call with your president, creating legacy society lapel pins for members, and offering VIP privileges at large organizational events are just a few of the benefits that you can both promise and confidently deliver. So, don’t promise your donors a parade in their honor; focus on small things you can give donors that will make them feel valued without breaking the bank and you may find your planned giving program gains traction.

Step 2:

Identify your best-planned giving prospects. While digging through your donor base, look for donors who have given to you the most often rather than the ones who have cut the biggest checks. Research has shown that the best predictor of future planned gifts is someone’s longevity as your donor. In other words: Don’t ignore the consistent $50 donor. He may just have bigger long-term value for your organization than the one-time $50,000 donor. 

Step 3:

Incorporate your announcement into your current communication efforts. No need to throw a Gatsby-style blowout just to reveal the program to your donors. A thoughtful mailing paired with a short, branded email and social media campaign gets donors just as excited. 

Step 4:

Don’t let the lack of immediate payoff get you down. Remember that this is a long-term commitment that will bear fruit down the road. 

And last but certainly not least, feel confident in your program! Launching a planned giving program is as simple as telling your donors that they can put your organization in their wills. You can build it up over time, but for now, all you need to do is accept your donor’s pledge. You can figure out the rest later. 


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