Endowing the Annual Gift

Planned Giving is often considered highly technical. People who make planned gift oftendo (or did) so for the tax benefits. And sometimes that nears creating sophisticated vehicles and creating programs or plans that will meet their donor’s needs.

But many planned gifts are pretty straightforward—a bequest left in a will promising an amount of money, a percent of the estate, what’s left after loved ones get theirs. Finding purpose for these bequests often gives development officers pause.

Some organizations have gotten around that by asking their donors to help them build a substantial endowment, or to provide ongoing support for a program.

One way I found was to ask my donors to endow their annual gift.

The gift they gave each and every year was so important to the mission of the organization, I thought they would want to ensure that their support continued in perpetuity. So a donor who regularly gave $1,000 a year could endow that for a deferred gift of around $22,500. Thinking about inflation, I would then ask my donor to round up—to $30,000 or more. You might note that I did say donor as opposed to prospect. That’s because someone who will endow their annual gift must not only be a donor but also be a very committed, regular donor.

It’s a great ask at the beginning of the new year. Develop a list of loyal annual donors and reach out to start the conversation about making their most important gift—the one they provide year after year—and ongoing gift long after they are gone.

It starts, as does most giving, with gratitude. “Clare, thank you for all the support you have given us over the years. Each year we know we can count on you for an annual gift of $2,500 and this means so much to our organization and our clients. I know it also means a lot to you.”

Be quiet now and let your donor talk—and hopefully tell you how much they love the work you do, the impact you have, and the fact that they get to be a part of that.

When your donors say such things it makes a perfect segue into the real purpose of your call or meeting. Or call to set up a meeting!

“That is exactly what I want to talk to you about.”

Now you can either ask to set up a meeting to discuss an idea you have or you can begin to talk about endowing his or her annual gift.

“As I mentioned, the fact that we can count on you every year is really important to our work. And for that reason, we hope that you will consider endowing your gift so it will continue even after you can no longer make a current gift.”

Because I always want donor buy-in, I’m not a big fan of a pitch. That means that I like to be quiet once I make a statement and let my donor add her thoughts, ideas, questions. But you must calibrate when to use silence and when to fill it. There are moments in a cultivation or an ask when silence becomes unnecessarily fraught. This could be such a time.

If your donor doesn’t say anything after a minute or so (and believe me, a minute can seem very long indeed), then continue and get more specific about what you are hoping for. While your goal is excited about and willing to endow his or her annual gift, you also want to ensure that during their lifetime, they will continue making that important annual gift. By showing them how important what they do is today and tomorrow, you are helping to convince them that there annual support is a very big deal indeed.

Janet Levine Consulting works with nonprofits, helping them to increase fundraising capacity and build stronger boards. Contact us for a free 30-minute consultation and see how we could help your organization go from mired to inspired.