Inexpensive Ways to Promote Your Planned Giving Program

I’ve been thinking about two stats all week:

At the end of the day, I go back to this: There’s a gap between those who likely will have and those who likely will have need. So if we (nonprofits) don’t ask, we won’t receive.

Planned giving programs are the bridge from asking to receiving, and provide a way to achieve donors’ personal philanthropic goals. Planned giving also helps organizations sustain their mission, benefitting the next generation.

The good news if you don’t have a planned giving program in place? These simple, low-cost and yet provenly effective things can help you get the ball rolling.

1 THING YOU CAN DO TODAY: Make the Most of What You’ve Already Got

Your Emails & Business Cards

Start small if you’re just getting started with planned giving—your email signature and business cards. Easy to add a one-liner like “Please remember us (or your org name) in your will,” or “It’s easy to leave your legacy at (your org name). Ask me how today.”

Your Newsletter

Whether it’s digital or print, your newsletter is made for planned giving promotion. One way to encourage reader interest/action is through a donor story.

It doesn’t have to be long, but telling an impact story, complete with a donor photo, inspires others to believe that they can make a difference with their giving too.

Another opportunity: Create small ads within your newsletter to promote planned giving seminars or thank-you luncheons.

Your Website

Stop now and go no further if you don’t have a planned giving page or pages on your website. Why? According to USC Annenberg, we Americans spend nearly 24 hours each week online. For better or worse, that’s nearly 3.5 hours a day.

While online, we’re often reflecting on fond memories, people and places that are special to us. Or, perhaps we are considering the next chapters of our lives, and how we want to be remembered. If people happen to visit your organization’s website as a way to reconnect or for more information, entice them to click and connect through to a “Ways to Give” or simple “Giving” tabbed page.

At the very least, your giving page needs to spell out the types of gifts you offer as well as a way to make an outright gift. And don’t forget to include the name and contact information of the development staffer who can answer questions and provide more information. People are more likely to follow up when there’s a real-live person they can go to and work with throughout the process.

Your Space

Think outside the box (office/facility space) to bring people in. Use your nonprofit’s physical spaces as a way to invite people in to learn more about your mission and planned giving program in a social, low-key event.

Try a lunch & learn about a topic related to your mission or after-hours social. The key is to bring people into your nonprofit and get the planned giving conversation started in unobtrusive ways.

Tip: Whenever possible, set up a planned giving display at the events you host or attend, like community fairs. Even a brochure in a goodie takeaway bag can make an impression.


Go to Your Board

They’re your first line of defense. Or offense in this case.  If you’re just starting your planned giving journey, first test the waters with board members. How excited and inspired are they about your mission and programs, and about leading your nonprofit into the future? Why, for them, is your nonprofit so important to the community?

Lead by example

Together with your board president, meet with each board member individually to talk about their motivations for serving on the board and ask them directly to make a planned gift with language like, “Have you thought about what your planned gift will be?” and “How can we help you complete the gift and achieve your goals?”

Find 15 minutes at each meeting

To talk about a different topic related to planned giving. Share any brochures or visual aids you have prepared so board members can share with their spheres of influence. Ask board members to share why they made a planned gift—and which one and why—or role play or provide scripts for talking about planned giving with prospective donors.

Make Time for Real FaceTime

Meeting face-to-face with major donors and prospective major donors signals a true, genuine desire to build a relationship with them. An afternoon lunch or morning coffee might not seem like a valuable way to spend an hour, but it may result in a future planned gift benefitting many.

Tip: Keep the conversation focused on the donor and their needs and interests, and choose openings for planned giving conversations. For example, if a donor talks about her desire to retire but still wants to maintain an income stream, talk about the advantages of charitable gift annuities (“the gift that pays you income”).  More about how to talk to donors can be found here.


If you’re still hesitant and can’t quite part with precious staffing resources and time, remember that planned gifts could reap rewards sooner than you think. A donor’s average annual gift size is likely to increase once a planned gift is put in place. Why? The donor feels more connected to your organization.

Do you have other low-cost ways to promote planned giving? Share your tips with us below—because everyone loves a good deal!

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