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Donor Participation Project

The Fundraising Joy of Planned Giving: Why Legacy Gifts Matter to Your Nonprofit

Planned gifts, especially legacy gifts made through wills and beneficiary designations, should be an important part of any nonprofit’s fundraising strategy. These gifts made from assets rather than cash often become a nonprofit’s largest donations. Even small organizations can benefit since anyone can make a planned gift, regardless of age, gender, or wealth level.

The most compelling reason to focus on planned giving is that donors who make legacy gifts become your most loyal supporters.

According to research by Dr. Russell James, donors increase their annual giving substantially after putting a nonprofit in their estate plan. Their lifetime giving, including annual and planned gifts, far surpasses donors without a planned gift. Cultivating these long-term relationships leads to joyful fundraising for both donors and nonprofits.

How can nonprofits attract these valuable donors?

Start marketing planned giving as soon as possible. While the full benefits may take years to realize, early outreach helps build familiarity and comfort with the concept. Use a simple message focusing on a donor’s values and omit scary jargon. Explain options like wills, beneficiary forms, and gift annuities using terms like “future gift” or “legacy.” Highlight impact by inviting donors to special events.


Steward planned giving donors well with personal notes, phone calls, and invitations reserved for your most loyal supporters. But never stop communicating or soliciting annual gifts, even for donors in their 80s and 90s. Realized bequests often happen within a donor’s last five years of life, so ongoing outreach is critical right up until the end.

A planned giving program is a long game that requires patience but pays off tremendously. While each donor lost is sad, their legacy can live on through the fruits of their gift. This is the joy of fundraising through relationships that transcend a lifetime. With the right message and highly personalized stewardship, any nonprofit can experience the rewards of planned giving. The key is starting now to build familiarity and make the most of opportunities to create lasting impact.

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

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