Planned giving is a vital piece of a comprehensive fundraising strategy but can be a challenging opportunity to take advantage of.
As death is an extremely sensitive subject, fundraisers may ask themselves, “How can I politely bring up planned giving?”, “How much should I ask for?” or “When is a good time to ask?”.
While all of these questions are critical to ask when planning an appeal, the most important question fundraisers must ask themselves is, “Who are my best planned giving prospects?”. By answering this question, the rest of the planned giving process will be much more clear.
In this article, I will outline several planned giving indicators so you can identify the donors who are more likely to give and donors who are more likely to leave a large gift.
Here are the planned giving indicators we’ll cover:
These indicators should only be used as a guide to organizing your appeals and not as a means to exclude any particular donor from your planned giving campaign.
5 Planned Giving Indicators for Nonprofit Fundraising
1. Donor Loyalty
Before we dive into some demographic indicators of planned giving, let’s discuss donor loyalty. Donor loyalty is the number one factor to be assessed before sending an appeal to a planned giving prospect.
Giving USA found that 50% of donors had given to their organization for more than 20 years before leaving behind a planned gift!
Additionally, Senior Client Strategist and fundraising expert, Renee Durnin found that a planned giving appeal should target donors who have given over 15 times and at least once within the past 3-5 years.
Every organization is different and should adjust its loyalty indicators accordingly! For example, some organizations encourage irregular giving patterns and may not have donors who have given over 15 times. For organizations like this, e.g., higher education institutions, Renee suggests aiming for five or more gifts rather than 15.
As people age, they tend to take on additional responsibility, acquire more assets, and solidify their familial connections. As such, your middle-aged donors are likely to think more critically about how they want to distribute their resources after they pass away.
With this in mind, fundraisers can identify donors who are beginning to consider these things. Generally, the age to look out for when planning your appeals is 44.
44 is the average age at which people write their first will. What’s more, 53% of donors establish their first planned gift when writing their first will. Fundraisers will likely have more success soliciting a planned gift from donors who are 44 years old.
However, for people older than 44, the value of their planned gifts is approximately 300% larger than people younger than 44. So, don’t discount older donors.
Overall, according to Free Will’s estate planning platform, donors aged 44 and older represent more than 75% of all wills and more than 80% of the total value of all charitable bequests made on the Free Will platform.
Use age 44 as a general indicator for planned gift readiness. But, don’t discount older donors just because they may be less likely to contribute. Instead, monitor the other indicators featured in this article to get a good outline for the likelihood and size of a potential planned gift.
3. Parental Status
As people age, they tend to establish solid familial connections and commitments. Donors who are parents are more likely to pass a considerable amount of their assets down to their children. So, donors without children are much more likely to leave a planned gift.
The absence of children is by far the most powerful indicator of a donor’s likelihood of leaving a charitable bequest. Among donors aged 50 and older who do not have children, 50% had charitable estate plans. Among similar donors with children, only 17% had charitable plans. More so, only 9.8% of donors with grandchildren had charitable plans.
The absence of children is also likely to increase the value of a charitable bequest. On average, charitable bequests by non-parents are 28% more valuable than bequests by parents.
Although non-parents are more likely to leave a planned gift, and a more significant planned gift, you shouldn’t exclude donors who are parents in your planned giving solicitations. However, fundraisers should consider nurturing non-parents donors to ensure they get the motivation and information necessary to leave a planned gift.
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4. Marital Status
Like how people leave money to their children when they pass away, they also leave money to their partners. This typically means that unmarried donors give larger planned gifts than married donors. For example, Free Will found that planned gifts from single donors are about 13% larger than married donors.
You might think “unmarried” or “single” means anyone who isn’t currently in a marriage, but donors who are divorced, widowed, or in a domestic partnership actually give less than married donors. Be sure to conduct a thorough research about donors’ marital backgrounds before investing your stewardship resources.
5. Pet Ownership
It’s hard to explain why, but pet owners are more likely to make a planned gift than non-pet owners. Pet owners are about 70% more likely to give! In addition, while pet owners write only 25% of all wills, 70% of these wills include a charitable bequest.
If you know a donor has a pet, try to include some furry friends in your communications to them. Out of all industries, pet and animal service organizations have the highest email open rates at 22.1%. So, including a cute dog or cat graphic in an email to a pet owner could just be the stewardship push they need to get them ready to make a planned gift.
Use these indicators as a guide to identifying your next planned giving prospect. Also, when making your fundraising appeals, keep in mind that your planned giving program might actually be stronger than you think.
For example, less than 25% of planned giving donors notify organizations about their gifts before passing away. So, perhaps the most important strategy for your planned giving program is to nurture your donor connections consistently! With continued and meaningful stewardship, you may just be pleasantly surprised by what your donors leave for you down the road.