The Best Ways to Identify a Planned Giving Prospect for Your Non-Profit

Guest Post by Ryan Woroniecki from DonorSearch

A planned giving prospect is a donor who makes preparations in the present to donate money to a nonprofit in the future, either through a trust or will. While most planned giving donations are made through a will and are monetary in nature, donors can also plan to leave real estate or stocks and securities to a nonprofit organization.

Identifying a planned giving prospect can be tough work. While you could conceivably throw darts at donors’ names on a wall and hope to hit what might be a planned donor, there is a much easier and effective way.

Prospect research can help you pin down which of your donors are likely to become planned givers. While it can’t tell you with 100% accuracy who will be a planned giving prospect, it can help you make more educated speculations as to which of your donors you should be marketing planned giving to.

Top Factors for Identifying a Good Planned Giving Prospect

When looking for planned giving prospects, nonprofits can look at two types of information:

Donor-Nonprofit Connections
Statistical Information

Both categories provide useful data when looking for your planned giving donors. Let’s take a look at each one separately.

Donor-Nonprofit Connections

Individuals who believe in your nonprofit’s mission and have supported your organization in the past are more likely to allocate a planned gift. When donors have a connection to your organization, they are more inclined to leave a planned gift. The following are the four most common donor-nonprofit connections that will point you toward a planned giving prospect:

Frequent Past Donations

Donors who have contributed in the past are more likely to donate in the future; it’s just common sense. Additionally, a pattern of increased giving over time can indicate that a donor might be a planned giving prospect. Individuals who plan to leave donations to a nonprofit don’t just randomly select an organization that they have no connection to. They choose nonprofit with whom they have a history of giving and or volunteering.

Belief in your Mission

Donors who are strongly connected to your organization and actively seek to help you fulfill its goals show their dedication to your cause. While conviction and commitment to your organization will likely come in the form of monetary donations, it can also manifest itself in volunteerism. Looking at how strongly a donor or volunteer believes in your organization can help determine whether or not they have the potential to be a planned giving donor.

Desire to Give a Major Gift

Donors and volunteers who have consistently given small donations over the months and years show a commitment to your organization. However, most people are not able to become major gift donors due to their current financial situations. By identifying donors who want to give major gifts in the future, you can determine who might be a planned giving prospect.

Positive Interactions with your Nonprofit

If donors have been positively affected by the work that your organization does, they might have the potential to become planned giving prospects. Nonprofit hospitals and other health organizations can establish grateful patient programs to help identify which individuals have received care and have the capacity to become planned giving donors.

Statistical Information

While the aforementioned donor-nonprofit connections are good indicators of which donors have the propensity to become planned giving prospects specifically, there are other factors that can help your nonprofit identify planned giving donors.


Older donors are more likely to be thinking about planned giving donations. While you can promote planned giving to all of your donors, it would be wise to pay more attention to the older generations who already have a will.

Marital Status

Donors who are still married understandably leave money to their spouses. Single or widowed donors, however, are more likely to include an organization in their will.


Similar to the previous point, donors who have children tend to leave their money to them. If a donor has no children or spouse, they are more inclined to make room for an organization in their will or trust.

Property Ownership

Usually, a nonprofit’s planned giving prospects are wealthy individuals. To determine which donors have the wealth to be planned giving prospects, you can start by looking at the property and stocks they own. This is where you’ll see some crossover between planned giving and major gifts prospects.

Of course, this is not a comprehensive list of all of the ways to identify a planned giving prospect. But by looking into donor-nonprofit connections like past giving and statistical information like age and marital status, your nonprofit can identify which of your current donors are likely to be planned giving prospects. Once you know who these donors are, you can more effectively approach them about planned giving programs. For more information on planned giving, check out this ultimate guide.

Ryan Woroniecki is the Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at Donor Search. You can learn more about setting up a planned giving program by reading Donor Search’s Complete Guide to Planned Giving.



Photo Credit: Robert Agthe