“Planned Giving”: Do your donors get it?

It’s common practice for fundraisers and other philanthropy professionals to use the term “planned giving,” but do your donors know what you mean? Certainly, some donors understand the term, especially those who’ve served on your board or who’ve worked with you to establish a bequest. But many donors–and especially prospective donors–could benefit from an explanation that avoids the confusion of industry jargon.  To that end, in your fundraising communications, you might consider providing background to help orient your donors to the purpose of planned giving before you dive into defining it or describing it.

For example:

– You could explain that a donor who writes checks or gives stock is making what’s sometimes referred to as a “current gift.” 

– You can further explain that many donors repeat these types of gifts every year so that they become “annual gifts.” 

– Next, you can draw a distinction between current or annual gifts and future gifts, outlining that well-structured future transfers to your organization are often referred to as “planned gifts” because, well, they require planning! 

– Be sure to let donors know that planned gifts are important to help the organization build its endowment and ensure that its mission stays strong for generations to come.

Clear, concise, and simple communication with donors will help your fundraising efforts. Indeed, a new study sheds light on the elements of communication that can help increase donor trust, including emphasizing good stewardship and solid decision-making practices. 

Consider adopting techniques to improve donors’ understanding of your message. For example:

– Use genuine, relatable storytelling to demonstrate the importance of your organization’s work, and share perspectives of the most affected people. Because you’re asking donors to consider gifts beyond their lifetime, be sure to illustrate the long-term, unpredictable needs facing the communities you serve and your organization’s ability to address them.

– Provide plenty of context, including details that improve believability. Don’t assume that the donor is familiar with what your organization actually does. Illustrate the organization’s commitment to service as a non-negotiable core value that will continue to persist far into the future. 

– Live up to your position as a trusted messenger by sharing vivid details and inclusive viewpoints to build transparent relationships. Skipping details and getting straight to the result creates a missed opportunity to educate donors about the level of work required to achieve impact and the need for financial support through endowment and other long-term gifts. 

By communicating clearly with your donors, omitting jargon, and sharing stories to demonstrate the value of a donor’s investment, you’ll go a long way toward improving your fundraising efforts to build long-term support for your organization and its mission, especially through planned gifts that demand a high degree of donor trust. 

Whidbey Community Foundation is a resource and sounding board as you serve our community. This is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal, accounting, or financial planning advice.