Emerging Trends in Planned Giving: What Every Fundraiser Should Know

Planned Giving

By Jeremy Reis

In the ever-evolving landscape of nonprofit fundraising, staying ahead of the curve is essential for success. Planned giving, a powerful tool for securing long-term support, is undergoing significant changes driven by shifting donor preferences, technological advancements, and innovative strategies.

I’ve been researching and writing about several giving trends lately, and planned giving is one of the most enticing trends. It’s an area that is poised for explosive growth in the next few years and one that your organization should take advantage of.

It’s crucial to understand and adapt to these emerging trends to maximize your organization’s impact and build lasting relationships with donors. In this article, we’ll explore eight key trends reshaping the world of planned giving and provide actionable insights to help you navigate this exciting frontier.

Table of Contents

Trend 1: The Rise of Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs)

Donor-advised funds (DAFs) have emerged as a popular vehicle for planned giving, offering donors flexibility, simplicity, and tax advantages. These philanthropic accounts allow donors to make a charitable contribution, receive an immediate tax deduction, and then recommend grants to their favorite charities over time. For nonprofits, DAFs represent a significant opportunity to cultivate long-term relationships with donors and secure ongoing support.

To engage with donors who have DAFs, focus on building trust and demonstrating the impact of their contributions. Share compelling stories and regular updates on how their grants are making a difference. Consider hosting exclusive events or providing personalized recognition for DAF donors to strengthen their connection to your mission. Additionally, make sure your website and marketing materials highlight your organization’s eligibility to receive grants from DAFs, making it easy for donors to support your cause.

Trend 2: Increased Focus on Blended Gifts

Blended gifts, which combine current and planned giving, are gaining traction as donors seek to make a lasting impact while also supporting their favorite charities in the present. By offering donors the opportunity to make a current gift alongside a planned gift, such as a bequest or charitable remainder trust, nonprofits can secure both immediate and long-term support.

When discussing blended gifts with donors, emphasize the flexibility and customization options available. Help them understand how their current and planned gifts can work together to create a powerful philanthropic legacy. Share examples of how other donors have structured their blended gifts and the impact they’ve had on your organization’s mission. Collaborate with your donors’ financial advisors to ensure their blended gifts align with their overall financial and estate planning goals.

Trend 3: The Impact of Technology on Planned Giving

Technology is revolutionizing the way nonprofits approach planned giving, from online bequest marketing to virtual donor engagement. Embrace digital tools to streamline your planned giving processes, making it easier for donors to learn about and commit to legacy gifts. Explore innovative platforms that allow donors to create and manage their planned gifts online, such as FreeWill or Giving Docs.

The National Park Foundation partnered with FreeWill, an online planned giving platform, to create a streamlined and user-friendly process for donors interested in leaving a legacy gift to support America’s national parks. The platform has helped the foundation secure over $1.5 million in new planned gift commitments.

Leverage social media and email marketing to educate your supporters about planned giving options and showcase the impact of legacy gifts. Host virtual events, such as webinars or Q&A sessions, to engage with donors and answer their questions about planned giving. By harnessing the power of technology, you can reach a wider audience, provide a seamless donor experience, and ultimately secure more planned gifts for your organization.

Trend 4: Engaging Younger Donors in Planned Giving

While planned giving has traditionally been associated with older donors, engaging younger generations is becoming increasingly important. Millennials and Generation Z are passionate about making a difference and are eager to support causes they believe in. To inspire younger donors to consider planned giving, focus on storytelling and impact.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched its “Tomorrow’s Leaders” program to engage younger supporters in planned giving. The program offers resources and events tailored to younger audiences, highlighting the impact of legacy gifts on wildlife conservation efforts. As a result, WWF has seen an increase in planned giving commitments from donors under 40.

Share powerful stories of how planned gifts have transformed lives and communities, emphasizing the long-term impact of these commitments. Highlight the variety of planned giving options available, such as charitable gift annuities or beneficiary designations, that align with younger donors’ financial situations and philanthropic goals. Consider launching a planned giving campaign specifically targeted at younger audiences, using social media, influencer partnerships, and peer-to-peer fundraising to spread the message.

Trend 5: Emphasis on Storytelling and Impact Reporting

In the age of information overload, compelling storytelling is more important than ever for engaging donors and inspiring planned gifts. Focus on crafting emotionally resonant narratives that showcase the transformative power of your organization’s work. Share stories of individuals whose lives have been changed by your programs and highlight the role of planned gifts in ensuring your mission’s long-term sustainability.

charity: water, a nonprofit focused on bringing clean water to communities in need, is known for its powerful storytelling and impact reporting. The organization regularly shares stories of individuals and communities whose lives have been transformed by access to clean water, connecting donors directly to the impact of their support. This approach has helped charity: water secure significant planned gifts, including a $30 million legacy gift from a single donor.

To demonstrate the impact of planned gifts, provide donors with regular updates on how their support is making a difference. Use a mix of quantitative data and qualitative stories to paint a comprehensive picture of your organization’s achievements. Consider creating a legacy society or recognition program for planned giving donors, celebrating their commitment and inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.

Trend 6: Impact Investing as a Form of Planned Giving

Impact investing, which seeks to generate positive social or environmental impact alongside financial returns, is gaining popularity among donors looking to align their investments with their values. By offering impact investing options as part of your planned giving program, you can attract donors who want to support your mission while also achieving their financial goals.

The Nature Conservancy offers donors the opportunity to support its mission through impact investing. The organization’s “Conservation Note” program allows investors to fund conservation projects while earning a financial return. Donors can choose to designate their investment returns as a planned gift, creating a long-term source of support for the organization’s work.

Educate your donors about the potential of impact investing, highlighting successful examples and the measurable impact achieved. Partner with experienced impact investing firms or community development financial institutions to create investment opportunities that align with your organization’s mission. Offer donors the option to direct a portion of their planned gift to impact investments, providing them with a tangible way to support your cause beyond traditional giving.

Trend 7: Using Life Insurance Policies for Planned Giving

Life insurance policies are emerging as a valuable tool for planned giving, allowing donors to make a significant gift to their favorite charity upon their passing. By naming your organization as the beneficiary of their life insurance policy, donors can leave a lasting legacy without impacting their current financial situation.

The American Cancer Society encourages donors to consider naming the organization as a beneficiary of their life insurance policies. The society provides resources and guidance to help donors navigate the process and understand the tax benefits of this planned giving option. As a result, the American Cancer Society has received numerous significant gifts through life insurance policies.

To promote life insurance policies as a planned giving option, educate your donors about the benefits and the process for setting up a policy. Partner with insurance professionals who can provide guidance and answer donors’ questions. Share stories of donors who have used life insurance to make a meaningful gift and the impact their generosity has had on your organization’s future.

Trend 8: Collaboration with Financial Advisors

Building strong relationships with financial advisors is crucial for integrating planned giving into donors’ overall financial and estate planning. Financial advisors are often the first point of contact for individuals considering their philanthropic legacy, so it’s essential to position your organization as a trusted partner.

The Cleveland Clinic’s Office of Philanthropy actively partners with financial advisors to promote planned giving opportunities. The office hosts regular educational sessions for advisors, providing information about the hospital’s mission and the impact of planned gifts. By building strong relationships with the financial advisory community, the Cleveland Clinic has significantly increased its planned giving revenue and has secured several multi-million dollar legacy commitments.

Host informational sessions or webinars specifically designed for financial advisors, educating them about your organization’s mission and planned giving opportunities. Provide advisors with resources and materials they can share with their clients, such as planned giving brochures or sample bequest language. Consider establishing a professional advisory committee composed of financial advisors, estate attorneys, and other experts who can provide guidance and serve as ambassadors for your planned giving program.

The world of planned giving is evolving rapidly, presenting both challenges and opportunities for nonprofit fundraisers. By staying informed about these emerging trends and adopting innovative strategies, you can position your organization for long-term success. Remember, planned giving is about building lasting relationships with donors and helping them create a meaningful legacy. By embracing new technologies, engaging younger audiences, collaborating with financial advisors, and focusing on storytelling and impact, you can unlock the full potential of planned giving and secure a brighter future for your mission.


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