A planned gift is a contribution that is arranged in the present and allocated for the future. Commonly donated through a will or trust, planned gifts are most often granted once the donor has passed away.  Planned gifts can be made via cash gifts or gifts of qualifying securities.  These gifts are sometimes discussed with the receiving charity when it is put in the will; other times the charity is notified about the gift after the donor’s passing.  The expansion of planned giving programs amongst charities are making it more appealing for donors to commit to leaving a planned gift.  Many offer a sense of community and recognition from the time the commitment is made.

Planned giving is increasing in Canada every year but on the whole, planned giving represents a very large and untapped segment of donors.  Along with major gifts, planned gifts can be some of the biggest donations a charity receives.  As well, being in a legacy circle (or something similarly named) of the charity can also increase loyalty and commitment from the donor.  A few weeks ago I heard a wonderful story about a local charity and an event they hold each year.  For that event those that have made bequests in their will are invited to an evening gathering at the organization.  Those that were part of the legacy circle that passed away the previous year are the “hosts” of the event.  During the evening a toast is made to each one.  Such an evening creates a warm feeling of community amongst the donors.

Not only the wealthy leave planned gifts.  Most people leave fairly modest amounts.  Studies have estimated the average planned gift made by Canadians to be between $20,000 and $35,000.

Planned giving prospects often have different characteristics than major giving prospects.  They are often very loyal, sustaining long-term relationships with organizations and have a strong belief in the organization.  They have generally given for at least five years, and in some cases over decades.  Typically they are over the age of 60.  Many live in areas that are not the wealthiest; often the areas they live in began as a middle-class neighborhood and they now have a highly appreciated property value.  In many cases planned giving prospects are also single – either never married or widowed, and they may not have children or grandchildren.

Developing a planned giving program can take time, but it is time well spent.  Once a planned giving program is developed it can ensure the long-term future of your organization.  Knowing who your most qualified donors are and engaging them is a great place to start.

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