How to Market Planned Giving for Your Non-Profit

When it comes to planned giving, many non-profits simply don’t focus on it. (This is mistake… every non-profit can and should be running a planned giving program. For more on why, read Four Common Planned Giving Myths Busted).

For those organizations that are running a planned giving program, many simply put a note on their website and in their fundraising materials that ask people to call if they would like to discuss a planned gift, and leave it at that. These non-profits often fail to gain traction with planned giving, because in order to be successful, organizations need to actively market their planned gift options and make planned giving asks to their donors.

In this article, let’s take a look at some of the ways your non-profit can be actively marketing planned giving to your donors and other supporters. The most popular and effective channels for marketing your planned giving program are (in no particular order):

Your Website

A non-profit’s website should be both a repository of information that donors can seek out when prompted by other marketing methods as well as a place where non-profits can make direct donor asks.

Your organization’s website can play a major supporting role in your planned giving maintenance efforts by providing information on the various types of planned gifts people can make to your non-profit as well as by directly asking donors to consider making a bequest. Similarly, your website can host information about your Legacy Club and other planned giving donor recognition efforts.

When launching planned giving for the first time or running a coordinated planned gift marketing campaign, your website can also provide a major way to reach donors with your campaign message. Many non-profits will place a planned giving message and ask directly on the front page of their website during planned gift fundraising campaigns.

Your Newsletter

Whether your non-profit sends out snail mail newsletters, e-mail newsletters, or both, your organization’s newsletter can be a great place to market your planned giving program. As with your website, your newsletter can be used to easily remind donors about your planned gift options as well as a great place to highlight your planned gift message, vision, donor stories, etc. during planned giving campaigns.

Direct Mail and E-Mail Appeals

Many non-profits successfully use direct mail (snail mail letters) and e-mail appeals to ask donors for planned gifts during planned giving campaigns. This tactic works best on small and mid-level donors (larger donors should receive more personal planned gift asks).

Small Group Events

I love using small group events as part of planned giving campaigns. You can hold events targeting 10-30 mid-level or major donors who you would like to target for planned gift asks. Invite them to an event to hear about your plan for the next 100 years, your vision for making a difference in the world, and the role they can play as part of your team. Do not charge for tickets to the event… the fundraising at this event is for planned gifts, not $50 ticket sales.

At the event, make your pitch, plus go over the planned giving options. Then, make a general ask for people to join your Legacy Club and remember you in their will. After the event, follow up with each attendee by phone within two weeks after the event to ask if they have any questions and to reiterate your ask.

Large Scale Events

Fundraising galas, dinners, and other large scale events are generally not good channels for marketing your planned gift fundraising. Making planned gift asks during large events rarely works, and mentioning your planned giving program during galas and dinners does little or nothing to help with program maintenance.

The one exception that I have noticed is with Legacy Club recognition. If you are running a planned giving program using a Legacy Club (a donor club focused on planned givers), consider recognizing the newest members of the club during your large annual fundraising event.

Social Media

As with all fundraising, the best use of social media for your planned gift marketing is to use social networks to drive traffic back to the planned giving pages on your organization’s website. This works best during large-scale planned giving campaigns run by your organization.


Planned-Giving-MeetingThe best way to make planned gift asks (and do planned gift cultivation) is one-on-one with the donor. Of course, because this is also the most time consuming method, you will need to reserve this strategy for your largest donors and best prospects.

My suggestion is that you use one-on-one meetings to make planned gift asks during any planned giving campaigns you run at your non-profit, and also that you include a strategy for one-on-one planned gift cultivation and asks as part of your non-profit’s major donor strategy… this way, you’ll be sure that you’re always asking major donors for a planned gift at a certain point in their journey through your organizations’ fundraising funnel.

Your Board

Believe it or not, your board can be an excellent channel for your planned gift marketing. Here’s how:

*First and foremost, every member of your board should be asked to make a planned gift commitment to your non-profit

*Second, your board members (each of whom, presumably, will have made a planned gift commitment to your non-profit) can serve as great reinforcement during your one-on-one and small group planned giving meetings. Bring some board members along to talk about why they made a planned gift, and how important planned giving is to the overall health and success of your non-profit

*Finally, your board members should be trained to be on the lookout for folks from their social and business circles who have the capacity to make large planned gifts. Ask your board members to set up meetings with these contacts to get them into your donor funnel

Make Planned Giving Part of Your Overall Fundraising Program

Planned gift fundraising is not a “set it and forget it” fundraising method, and it is not something you focus on only during a planned giving launch and then never have to mention again. Planned gift fundraising is worth it, but it does take work.

It is important that your non-profit makes planned giving part of your overall fundraising program. You can do this by scheduling a planned giving campaign every 3-4 years, as well as “maintaining” your planned giving program by offering resources and reminders on your website, in your newsletters, etc.

You can also make planned giving part of your overall fundraising program by including planned gift marketing and asks as part of your donor funnels. Great fundraising organizations use the stewardship phase of the fundraising funnel to not only retain donors, upgrade them and ask for referrals, but to also make an ask for a planned gift.

Photo Credits: Atsuto, VFS Digital Design