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Donor Participation Project

Attracting Lifetime Donors: It’s Never Too Early to Start

Legacy gifts, also known as planned gifts, make up a significant portion of contributions to nonprofits each year. According to Giving USA, legacy gifts accounted for $46.01 billion given to charities in 2020. These gifts are from donors who thoughtfully include charities in their estate plans to create a lasting impact.

The best time to start securing legacy gifts was years ago. The second best time is now.

Donors often make estate planning decisions years before they pass away, so consistent communication about your mission and impact is key. Provide sample bequest language on your website and in print materials so donors and their attorneys have the information readily available. Sending annual reminders about planned giving opportunities through mailings, e-newsletters, and social media also keeps your organization top of mind for donors thinking about their legacy.

While major gift donors are obvious planned giving prospects, mid-level donors, lifetime members, and devoted volunteers also have the potential to become legacy donors. Treat these most loyal constituents as planned giving prospects, inviting them to attend special donor events and recognizing their consistent support. For younger donors in their 50s and 60s, a planned gift of even 1 to 3 percent of their estate could have major impact down the line as their assets appreciate. Starting cultivation of younger donors today sets the stage for a meaningful planned gift years later.

The most successful nonprofits know that legacy donors are often their most dedicated supporters, continuing annual gifts even after providing for the charity in their estate plan. Take a donor-centered approach by listening for clues that a donor is working with an estate planner. Be ready to share helpful resources and sample bequest language to ensure you have a seat at the table.

With consistent messaging and stewardship, donors who start out making small annual gifts can become your greatest legacy donors. In the end, planned giving success is all about relationships and taking the long view. Start now, keep going, and your nonprofit will reap the rewards for generations to come.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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