Legacy giving, also known as planned giving, refers to donations that supporters arrange to go to your nonprofit after their passing. In this guide, we’ll break down four simple ways to encourage legacy giving among your donors, including the following suggestions:

  1. Explain the benefits.
  2. Offer gift options.
  3. Market your legacy giving widely.
  4. Show your gratitude.

While a legacy giving program is in reach for nearly every nonprofit, it may take different forms depending on your organization’s size, donor interest, staff availability, long-term planning, and resources. According to Infinite Giving’s guide to nonprofit reserve funds, developing clear fundraising goals and investment plans will save you money and time in the long run. 

Explain the benefits.

Legacy giving is the number one source for endowments. And endowments should be the easiest story to tell. They are a one time gift that benefits a donor's favorite organization for decades to come.

Donors have a range of reasons for making a gift—especially if it’s a large one. Because of this, part of encouraging these legacy donations is communicating to donors exactly how their contribution will benefit them and their interests. Share the following primary benefits of planned giving:

  • Building a legacy. As the name suggests, legacy giving can offer donors a chance to be remembered and celebrated for their generosity as endowment gifts can be named and honored by children and grandchildren. 
  • Earning significant tax breaks. As with other donations, planned gifts can be deducted from your donor’s annual taxes, providing a financial incentive for legacy giving.
  • Controlling where their donation goes. Generally, with average donations, donors tend to give to the organization’s annual fund and have little control over how the nonprofit uses their contribution. However, funds given through wills can include specific guidelines and restrictions that nonprofits must follow. 

Additionally, you can share how these legacy gifts will impact your nonprofit’s success. Show potential donors exactly how their gift will aid your organization, support your fiscal stability, and help you plan for the future. 

Offer gift options.

Legacy giving often occurs in assets, not cash. By making these options clear to donors, you allow them to make a planned gift in the way that best fits their lifestyle and interests. Offer legacy giving options, including:

  • Bequests. Donors list your nonprofit as the recipient of specific funds, stocks, art, or a percentage of an estate in their will.
  • Life insurance. Donors name your nonprofit as a beneficiary of their life insurance policy.
  • IRAs. Donors name your nonprofit as the beneficiary of their employer’s retirement policy.
  • Charitable gift annuities. Donors donate a sizeable monetary gift, and the nonprofit provides them a fixed income for the rest of their life.
  • Endowments. Donors can create a named endowment fund, seed it while alive, and add to it upon their passing. It's a gift that can live for generations to come and gives back to their favorite nonprofit year after year. Endowment creation also helps with the difficulty of legacy giving conversations. It's not just about what donors do when they die, but the legacy they want to create today. 

Ultimately, your legacy giving program will be most successful when you ask your donors what works best for them and tailor the experience around their needs.

Market your legacy and educate donors.

The planned giving process is deeply personal, but you can still sensitively promote it as an option to supporters. To reach as many donors as possible, use multiple channels of communication.

Even as you promote your program widely, you can still make these promotions feel personal with customized appeals based on your target audience. Leverage the data in your database, including names and previous engagement with your organization, to directly address potential donors. In each appeal, share ways they can learn more, as well as a custom link for those ready to start the donation process.

Show your gratitude.

Thanking and acknowledging a donor’s legacy is an ongoing process that should consist of more than a single expression of gratitude. In addition to the customary follow-up emails post-donation, communicate your appreciation for legacy donors to their families and at special events.

Across your communications, make sure you express how grateful you are for donations and remind donors of the impact of their gift with a combination of statistical data, relevant anecdotes, and real-time updates.

Legacy giving is often an untapped source for major gifts. Start the conversations now to build financial sustainability and donor legacy in the future.

This post was originally written for and published on the Dennis Fischman blog.