Simple Low or No-Cost Ways to Promote Planned Giving

Guest post by Michael J. Rosen, CFRE

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series on planned giving by nationally recognized expert Michael Rosen. The first part may be found here: Four Common Planned Giving Myths Busted.

Far and away, the most common type of planned gift is the simple charitable bequest, a gift made in someone’s will. So, it is not surprising that so many organizations are reluctant to take scarce dollars away from mission fulfillment today to invest in giving that could be deferred years, or even decades. Fortunately, there are a number of low or no-cost things organizations can do to promote planned giving and, thereby, plant the seeds that will yield substantial contributions in the future as well as increased current giving.

Eight Simple Words

There are eight simple words that should be used as a tagline as often as possible: “Please remember us in your will and trusts.” Add this tagline to your email signature block, business cards, letterhead, newsletters, website, and anything else your organization prints. This simple sentence will allow you to plant the idea about planned giving and will keep the message ubiquitous.

Existing Newsletter

Most organizations publish a print or online newsletter or magazine. There are a variety of low or no-cost ways to promote planned giving through these publications. You can place an advertisement about planned giving in the publication. You can publish an article about a planned giving donor that reveals what motivated them to make the gift and how the gift will be used.

However, you do not even need space dedicated to planned giving to promote it. For example, in an article that shows how your organization is fulfilling its mission, you can include a line or two that says something like, “This project was made possible through the generous support of Mr. and Mrs. John Smith who made a substantial contribution through their will.” Tell readers that planned gifts are important, needed, and allow the organization to accomplish great things.


On you organization’s website, include at least a single page about planned giving. Provide information that will be useful to the reader. And, include the name and contact information for the appropriate development professional. People are far more likely to contact you if they know your name and how to contact you directly. They are less likely to call or send email blindly. For more on using your organization’s website to raise money, read Fundraising On the Internet.

Existing Event

At existing special events, recognize planned gift donors along with current donors. Let participants know how planned gift support has made a program possible. For a general admission event, do a VIP pre-event to thank planned gift donors. Recognizing the value of planned gift donors at existing events is a great way to thank these supporters while inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.


Hosting special seminars for donors and prospective supporters is a great, inexpensive way to encourage them to make planned gifts. Just make sure that the seminar delivers value to the attendees. Instead of hosting a seminar to show people how to make a planned gift, a workshop could be designed to demonstrate for people the importance of having a will and showing them how a will can protect their families. Another workshop could explain how charitable gift annuities can provide an income for life to meet retirement needs.

By keeping the seminars donor-centered, prospective donors will be more likely to show up, will be more appreciative, and will be more likely to be receptive to a planned giving ask when one is made.

Face-to-Face Visits

Organizations with effective development programs visit major donors and prospective major donors on a regular basis. Periodically, when visiting with donors and prospects, you should take some time to talk about planned giving. The key is to keep the conversation focused on the donor and his needs and interests. For example, if a donor expresses a concern about retirement income, you could mention that a charitable gift annuity will provide an income for life.

Direct conversations with donors and prospects will allow you to organically share information about gift planning that can help them and, ultimately, the organization.

Promoting planned giving need not divert significant dollars away from mission fulfillment today. With just a modest investment, nonprofit organizations can generate larger current contributions and significant deferred donations through planned giving.

For more information on how to supercharge your planned giving program, check out How to Launch and Market a Planned Giving Program at Your Non-Profit.

Michael J. Rosen, CFRE, President of ML Innovations, Inc., is the author of the new planned-giving bestseller Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. Michael can be reached at mrosen [at]