Why (and How) Every Nonprofit– Even Yours! -Should Have a Planned Giving Program

We have too much on our plates already, why does my organization need a planned giving program, too?
  • The country is in the midst of an enormous intergenerational transfer of wealth. Over the next 50 years, literally trillions of dollars of wealth will be passing from baby boomers, the wealthiest generation in U.S. history, to their heirs. 
  • In the Mid-Hudson Valley alone, the estimated amount of the transfer is $22 billion dollars.
  • While most of those assets will pass to family and friends, and some will be paid in taxes, many, many millions of dollars will be left as gifts in wills to charity.
  • In addition, unbelievably, your donors, even your most loyal supporters, are not immortal.  When they sit down to do their estate planning, will they know that yours can be among the charities they can give to through their will, insurance policies, financial accounts, or retirement funds?

Even if you’re new, even if you’re in a small one-person shop, you too can begin to tell your donors that they can include you in their estate planning.  How?
  • Get your board on board – ask them to pass a resolution to create a legacy society and promote planned gifts. Building resources and a future is part of their fiduciary responsibility.
  • Start your legacy society close to home.  Ask your board members (current and past) if they would or already have made a gift to your charity in their wills or other estate plans.  For those who do, ask them to allow you to list them as members of your legacy society – on your webpage, in your annual report and newsletters. 
  • Know the basics - you don’t need to become an expert!  At least 90% of planned gifts are either through a will, or by naming a charity as a beneficiary of their retirement plans, insurance policies, or financial accounts.  These so-called beneficiary designations don’t even require an appointment with a lawyer, and are generally paid out to organizations by check.
Sample charitable bequest language:
“I give, devise, and bequeath [an amount, a percentage, or the rest and residue of your estate] to the ORGANIZATION’S LEGAL NAME, (Tax ID #XX-XXXXXXX). This gift will be used to (support a particular program or for general support).”
  • Incorporate planned giving messages in your existing materials – your newsletter and annual report, on your website, on your donation response cards, even into your email signature.  You never know when one of your donors is going to create or update their estate plan. But you can be sure that they know that your organization would welcome being part of their charitable legacy. Nothing technical is needed here – think simple and memorable, it should start a conversation, not end one.
  • Ask for advice as you need it.  Staff at the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley is available to speak to your board about the importance of planned giving, and to provide guidance and advice as you launch your program. We can also assist with more complicated questions or bequests as they arise.
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