Larger Gifts for All Sized Organizations

We were talking about planned giving as a way that some donors could make larger gifts without negatively impacting their families or their current lifestyle.  Some of the people on the development committee were really against the idea of allowing someone to make a future gift—especially if that gift were revocable. “It’s really easy to say sure, I’ll put you in my will.  But what’s to stop that person from never doing it or changing it later?”

Good cultivation, strong stewardship, commitment.  But yet, bad things do happen.  And even with irrevocable gifts, current needs may be so high that the promise for the future feels meaningless.  Which is why legacy and deferred gifts should always be an “and” rather than an “or”.

For example, when your donor responds to your request for a major gift with a comment like, “Would that I could…” your next step should be to ask, “IF I can show you a way that you could without taking anything away from your loved ones, would you commit to a gift of that size?”

From there you ascertain how much the prospect could do in a current gift (and that includes one over 3 to 5 years) and then show the various ways that the difference could be made up using one or more planned giving vehicles.

Of course, your donor decides how much and how a gift will be made.  But you are in charge of asking.  How you ask, the suggestions you might make, the opportunities you present all really do matter in most cases.

Planned giving, for most smaller organization, is probably not something you will go out of your way to aggressively market.  Perhaps you will educate and ask your constituents to consider leaving you a legacy by naming the organization in their will.  But you probably won’t set up a meeting just to suggest that action.  At best, beyond a mass mailing, a suggestion underneath your email signature, an article or two in your newsletter, you’ll invite your prospects to an event where someone will tell them about the benefits of estate planning.

Still, it is a tool that you may want to consider.  Another way to give your donors an opportunity to make a difference.  A way to help them help you.


Janet Levine works with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity. Planned gifts, she believes, are important for all nonprofits, not just large ones.   Learn more at  While there, sign up for her free monthly newsletter.