Home April 2010 Testamentary Gifts

Testamentary Gifts

Fact: approximately 8 percent of all charitable giving in the U.S. in 2008 ($22.7 billion) came in the form of testamentary gifts, according to Giving USA. This represents significantly more than all giving by business/corporate sources and almost as much as foundations provided.

Too many Jewish nonprofits are yet to recognize the importance of developing a formal planned giving program, through which donors can make significant gifts to support a host of purposes, ranging from programmatic issues to many different types of positions or even unrestricted endowments.

No fundraising effort is complete today without a planned giving component. Testamentary gifts come in many ways, ranging from wills, trusts, estates, bequests, and insurance policies to many different types of annuities.

Establishing a planned giving program is especially timely. Today, any Jewish nonprofit organization that seeks a diversified way to offer donors resources to provide meaningful gifts to the organization must pursue the development of a comprehensive planned giving effort. Before venturing into the world of planned giving, Jewish nonprofit leaders should take several critical steps. Secure the services of an experienced consultant to help create a viable planned giving program along with a qualified investment firm that best meets the needs of the organization.

Create a committee of the agency’s board to oversee the program and provide critical volunteer resources. Members of the planned giving committee should not be limited to “experts;” rather, the committee should include donors who will advocate to others for making their own planned gifts because they have already set the pace by taking the appropriate steps for testamentary commitments.

Nonprofit leaders must do their due diligence to find the investment firm that can be the best asset and complement organizational needs and wishes. Current and potential donors must be assured that you are conducting your financial planning wisely and with full disclosure.

Once you have chosen professional resources to help create and administer your planned giving program, develop a schedule that includes seminars to highlight the variety of giving options that will be made available to your constituency and regular mailings. Properly educate your donors so that they realize the options they now have to make a lasting impression on your nonprofit, without necessarily making an immediate cash gift. This also tells your constituency that you are making the effort to explore diverse opportunities to position your organization for financial stability and that you are around for the long term.

Crescendo, an often-used planned giving software and consulting resource, sponsored a seminar in Orlando, conducted for fundraising professionals interested in addressing innovative planned giving approaches. Highlighted at the conference were several recommendations:

  • using email is an important way to present timely information to potential planned giving donors;
  • 90 percent of planned gifts come in the form of bequests but 80 percent of all bequests are unknown to the recipient organizations, thereby suggesting the importance of building all types of relationships with all donors;
  • the best planned giving prospects are loyal and current donors, especially those who have made annual gifts for 10 consecutive years;
  • the most likely planned gift donors are between their late 40s and late 50s but charitable gift annuity donors are likely to be in their mid 70s.

Robert I. Evans, Managing Director, and Avrum D. Lapin, Director, are principals of The EHL Consulting Group, of suburban Philadelphia, and are frequent contributors to eJewishphilanthropy.com. EHL Consulting works with dozens of non-profits on fundraising, strategic planning, and non-profit business practices.

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