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Improve Your Impact Through Planned Giving

By Wayne Olson

When people think about fundraising, they often turn to events such as balls, galas, walks or runs. While these get ample attention, they are not the primary source of much-needed funding for most nonprofits. The best, and by far the most productive support for churches and charities comes from planned giving. When you understand the power behind planned giving, you will never look at charities, or charitable giving, the same way again.

Planned giving is one of those things everyone thinks they know, but often do not. While there are several ways of defining planned giving using technical language, this simple description works in almost every situation:

A planned gift is any gift that takes more than two minutes to make.

Essentially, a planned gift is any gift other than cash or check. Cash, checks, and now credit cards and electronic transfers all take less than two minutes. They are not planned gifts. Almost anything else is. The most common planned gift is a gift by will or trust, where a donor includes a designation in an estate plan to a charity or charities. There are other common planned gifts that are just as important: trusts, life insurance, IRA Rollover, gift annuities, real property, personal property and about a dozen other types of gifts.

If you are a donor, you need to take advantage of planned giving. For example, if you give an appreciated asset to charity, such as stock, you receive a double benefit. By transferring stock, never selling it, you avoid paying capital gains on the appreciation, but still receive an income tax deduction for its present value. Why would you give cash when you can transfer stock and purchase new stock at a higher basis with the cash you would have given? There are similar advantages for real property, closely held stock and other assets. Ask the Community Foundation or your favorite nonprofit for help in determining the best planned gift for you.

If you are a nonprofit and do not accept or encourage planned gifts, you have missed the single-greatest opportunity to transform your organization. Many charities devote almost no attention to planned giving, yet planned gifts can result in millions of dollars in gifts. These gifts are easier for the donor, provide ample benefits and incentives to the donor, and also do not involve the labor, overhead or aggravation that comes with the perpetual cycle of fundraising events.

Donor Advised Funds are a common planned gift, and one that is a specialty of the Community Foundation. Like wills and trusts, it is an exceptional way of making gifts in a significant, but straightforward way. Donor Advised Funds are also a great, advantageous response to the new, higher federal income tax standard deduction.

Whether you are a nonprofit or are an individual who supports what they do, explore the benefits of planned giving. There any many advantages to planned giving for the donor and the charity. Before you make your next gift (or receive one from a donor) be sure to check with the Community Foundation to determine if a planned gift might is a better fit.

Wayne Olson is a frequent speaker and trainer of customer relations and leadership for for-profit corporations and he trains nonprofits and their leaders in fundraising and donor relations. Wayne has been a keynote speaker at Nonprofit University and has served on three local, nonprofit boards. He can be reached at