4 Misconceptions about Gift Planning

Misconceptions about gift planning aren’t unusual, but when they come from nonprofit leaders they can be problematic or even damaging.  Here are four of the most common gift planning misconceptions along with some thoughts for countering them and turning your leaders into gift planning champions.

Our Organization is Too Small for Gift Planning

At smaller organizations, planned gifts are often less common.  It’s natural for leaders at small nonprofits to view gift planning marketing as a waste of time and resources.  If an estate gift happens to come in, they’re thrilled, but they may not see any value in actively promoting planned gifts.  It’s more likely that an unexpected bequest is actually a sign of untapped gift planning potential.  Small organizations with a loyal donor base are ideally positioned to start promoting basic planned gifts.  It doesn’t require a large investment or gift planning expertise.  It just takes consistent messaging and making it easy for donors to obtain basic gift planning information such as the organization’s legal name and tax identification number, or sample bequest language. 

Gift Planning Won’t Help Us Today

In the absence of experience to the contrary, many nonprofit leaders think of gift planning’s impact as deferred, something that may help in the future but won’t make a difference now.  The truth is that gift planning can actually increase current gift revenue, often from donors who are already engaged.  Outright gifts of appreciated securities/property, IRA Qualified Charitable Distributions, and bunching gifts through a donor advised fund are powerful gift planning solutions that are being used by donors at nonprofits large and small.  This is especially true with the dwindling number of donors who itemize tax deductions and the growing number of retirees.  The reality is that gift planning can often help donors have a greater current impact than they may have ever imagined.

We Can’t Afford a Gift Planning Expert

It’s not surprising that many nonprofit leaders have the stereotypical notion that gift planners need to have a legal or financial background.  Gift planning sounds complicated, so it must require hiring an expensive gift planner with legal or financial expertise.  Even though some planned gifts are complex, most aren’t.  Most planned gifts are simple.  That’s the reason why 90% of future planned gifts are bequests or bequest-like gifts, and why simple outright gift planning options are so popular.

Instead of hiring a gift planning expert, nonprofit leaders should look for a relationship expert…someone who is a good listener, who can come alongside loyal donors through a series of conversations and help them explore ways to maximize their impact on a charity they love.  That’s what gift planning is really all about.  And if a more complicated gift opportunity happens to come along, there are commercial, third-party partners who can help work through the details.

Gift Planning Donors Often Change Their Minds

Bequest commitments and estate distributions make up a significant portion of total philanthropic activity in the U.S. every year.  And yes, bequest donors generally retain the right to change their minds.  But will they?  Rarely, as long as nonprofits don’t give them a reason to do so.  Engaging gift planning donors and making them feel like members of the family is the greatest insurance against bequest donors changing their minds.  On the contrary, good stewardship can lead to larger bequest provisions and current gifts.

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