Are You Ready To Start A Planned Giving Program?

planned giving checklist imageIf your answer is yes, do you know what it takes to develop and run a planned giving program?

  1. Do you think this is the time to take on something new?  Not just the idea that you will make it work.  Particularly something where you might not see revenue for ten, twenty or thirty years?  As with any new program, planned giving will take time and energy if you are to be successful.   And an unsuccessful plan can mean disappointed donors and their heirs.  And a significant investment with no hope for return.  In other words, if you are not going to follow through – don’t start.
  2. Is there an understanding among the volunteer and professional leadership of your agency of the fundamentals of planned giving?  Do you know the difference between a charitable gift annuity and a charitable lead trust? Retained life estate vs. a gift of real estate?
  3. Have you d etermined who will be charged with ensuring creation, continuity as well as the fiscal management of a program of this type?   Will it be one person who understands all of the necessary stages or more than one?  Will you require a planned giving consultant to help you create the ideal program for your specific organization or can you do it effectively in-house? Will you involve a financial person or financial consultant to keep track of the record keeping over the years?  Will you require an attorney to create the necessary legal documents?  Does your board support this endeavor and do they have the capacity to take on a new initiative?
  4. Are you willing to spend the money that it will take to create the program?  Staff time, investment management,accounting and legal costs, and creative and printing expenses for materials to attract and explain planned giving can add up quickly so make sure you budget for them.  Remember just as in underpromis and over-deliver, overstate potential expenses—both direct and indirect—and understate income, if any in these start-up years.  As noted above, it could take your organization decades to see the return on your investment.
  5. Do you know how you are going to recognize donors for their impactful gifts? Is there a specific giving society?  Will there be a wall by the entrance with names permanently inscribed?  A section of the newsletter dedicated to this group?  An annual dinner for those involved?  Naming opportunities?
  6. Is there a legitimate timetable that can be followed?  Do the entire board, senior staff and necessary volunteers agree to uphold the timetable to the best of their ability?
  7. How you will inform stakeholders about this new program?  Marketing efforts are essential, as are information sessions and materials.  Are the prospects going to read your newsletter or are they more likely to read a personalized letter?  Each organization is different so there are no set rules except that you need to create your own guidelines.
  8. Who are you going to ask to participate in this program?  Who will help you determine your strategy and who will help meet with these individuals or couples?  In fact, will you establish benchmarks to qualify prospects and for number of visits to prospects as part of the marketing and development process?

Yes, it is a lot to think about.  A planned giving program seems, at first glance, like an easy addition to a nonprofit’s offerings. But, as with all worthwhile endeavors, it will take work and money to get off the ground.  The return on your investment can be amazing, but patiently prepare yourself for the interminable journey.