10 Ways to Promote Planned Giving During the Holidays

Ready or not, the holidays are here—the busiest time of year for many nonprofits. Whether for the goodwill of all or the goodwill of their bottom line, nearly one-third of donors transfer funds, write a check, click “yes” or commit in some way to making a financial gift to a charity in December.

Amid the flurry of activity, how do you ensure planned giving (aka legacy giving) stays top of mind among donors and prospects? Check out our checklist, below, for ideas to consider; adapt or mix and match to suit your team/department/organization.

Whatever you do, keep it simple. Your focus shouldn’t be to overtly sell a planned gift or provide in-the-weeds technical information. Instead, stir the senses to compel thought and provide top-line information about planned giving vehicles.

We suggest sticking to these five most common types of planned gifts:

  • Gifts in a will (bequests)
  • Beneficiary designations (involving all or part of life insurance, IRA, etc.)
  • Gifts from an IRA
  • Gifts from a donor advised fund
  • Gifts of appreciated stock


1. Create a mini holiday (planned) gift guide. As a letter, email or social post—or across all three as the centerpiece of a holiday planned giving campaign. (Remember: Content repetition is key.) Share types and benefits of planned gifts in the guide. Also use colorful, dynamic photos with captions that tell donor/impact stories.

HOW TO WRAP IT UP: Showcase the benefits of planned gifts—CGAs as gifts that provide you income; bequests that help you achieve charitable goals while conserving today’s income; appreciated stocks as a donation to reduce or eliminate capital gains. Tell donors about the “gifts” they can expect to receive by making a planned gift.

2. ‘Tis the season to be social (campaigns). Post throughout the month about legacy giving. (Set post dates ahead of time if you share messaging on one platform with other internal departments.) On the first day, introduce the idea of legacy giving and how these gifts make an impact with short donor and impact stories. Make video and photos standout campaign elements.

HOW TO WRAP IT UP: Create a campaign theme around the easiest type of legacy gift to make: bequests. Taglines could include: “Be a gift to others with a bequest.”  “Be a bright light for others with a bequest.” “Be present this season with a bequest.” Also, reinforce that donors have options with bequests (as a tribute in honor of someone, as a percentage of your estate, that they are revocable, etc.) and that you are a phone call away for any questions.

3. Engage in email. Nothing long or technical; the goal is to plant the idea of making a gift in the hearts and minds of email recipients. Capture the sentiment of making the gift and its impact on others. Try sending weekly, starting after Thanksgiving.

HOW TO WRAP IT UP: If possible, personalize subject lines for a conversational tone. Most of us use the subject line as a deciding factor between reading or deleting.

4. Plant the planned giving seed for 2020. Same idea as above but start your email campaign in December and culminate on Valentine’s Day. Think of a theme like “Holidays to Hearts.” Tie in the idea of how creating a legacy gift is the epitome of love, commitment and sharing goodwill—and how legacy gifts can benefit the donor and their loved ones as well as your nonprofit’s mission.

5. Send a holiday card to donors, thanking them on behalf of those you serve, for making a planned gift. Whatever you say, convey genuine warmth. Go off script and individualize if there’s a special connection with the donor.

HOW TO WRAP IT UP: Gather a team to write notes; organize who writes to whom from your donor list; host several lunch-and-write sessions. Always a good idea to entice holiday card writers with treats to make the group writing session merrier.

6. Call as many donors and prospects as you can (or have preselected) to wish them and theirs a happy holiday season.

HOW TO WRAP IT UP: Take the opportunity to strengthen relationships. “Would you like to come by and tour our new men’s shelter facility? It’s been cold out, so this will give you a chance to see how the facility makes their nights a lot safer—and warmer.”

7. Deliver holiday happiness. Not practical for donors and prospects who live far away but an option for those who live nearby. A small, appropriate token, like a holiday card made by those you serve or a locally made product, shows you care about them as people and certainly beyond the financial commitment.

8. Host a donor holiday party/luncheon. Encourage guests to bring a guest too.

HOW TO WRAP IT UP: Plan a giveback where guests can participate in a charitable activity together, like packaging a meal or hygiene kits for those in need. Consider partnering with another charitable organization if the match works.

9. Tweak your email signature to reflect a holiday giving spirit. Link the call to action to your planned giving page. Something like: “Feel the warmth this holiday season. Create a legacy of caring with an estate gift to [nonprofit name].”

10. Find out: Is the board on the nice list? Has everyone made his or her planned gift? This is a good month to reach out to those who haven’t (yet) with a personal visit to discuss how they can. They might not take action (yet), but you’ll have planted the seed in a friendly environment.

You probably have even more great ideas to highlight legacy giving during the holidays. Other thoughts? Share away; it’s the spirit of the season.

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