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What is planned giving?

Planned giving is a way for donors to leave a legacy that will grow even after they're gone.

“Planned Giving” refers to gifts that don’t happen until some future condition is met, usually the death of the donor and their direct dependents. While few and far between, these gifts will typically be the largest that the parish or ministry will ever get.

Why is that? When a person is making a current gift, they are typically giving out of their disposable income. If they are extremely wealthy, they might make a gift out of their surplus assets, but typically donors wait to dispose of their assets until they pass on to glory.

In general, people who can make large planned gifts have significant illiquid assets. A home, a retirement plan, a paid-up insurance policy. They are not able to tap into these assets during their lifetime, but would be willing to make a gift out of their estate at some point in the future.

Planned giving as a type of fundraising is more difficult to focus on because the timeline is so long. When you start a planned giving effort, you need to expect that it will usually take five or more years before it bears significant fruit. It is so important to recognize that a modest investment in planned giving can have a truly transformative impact on your ministry.

Some essentials for a Planned Giving Campaign

When you think about your Planned Giving Campaign, it’s important to think about why you’re doing it. This seems so basic, but the fact is that if you don’t have a compelling reason for people to give, people won’t do it.

One beautiful thing about our Church is that we have a reason for existence that has a Divine Origin. “Go therefore and make disciples of the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to do all I have commanded you to do.” It doesn’t get better than that.

Next, you need to create an appropriate vehicle for accepting planned gifts. While some people will be willing to make a planned gift to your general operations fund, a perpetual endowment provides a way for a person or family to make a gift that becomes a family legacy. You can create an endowment as a separate non-profit, which has the benefit of direct control over the funds, or you can work with your diocesan Catholic Foundation to manage the funds.

“If you build it, they will come”

Nonsense. If you don’t tell people about it, no one is going to come. You need to come up with a long-term marketing strategy for your planned giving efforts that is sustainable over a number of years. Brochures in the Narthex, Bulletin articles, information on the website are a minimum level of marketing. If you can mention it a few times a year from the pulpit, this works with your other reminders to help spur people to action.

Looking for more articles on planned giving? Try these:

Check out The Fundraiser’s Playbook for a full list of fundraising articles.

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