Creating Strong Board Leadership for Planned Giving

The governing board of a non-profit organization has broad responsibilities that include overseeing finances, insuring the organization has sufficient resources, strategic organizational planning, choosing the chief executive, and compliance with legal and accounting requirements. 

Development staff typically has minimal input in the selection of board members and limited direct access to board members. A development or fundraising committee of the board is the usual point of contact for development staff with the board.  You need to make the most of the access that you do have and leverage that access to your best advantage. 

 The objectives of your governing board in planned giving fundraising include:

  •  Lead by example

Every board member should be expected to complete a planned gift with your organization.  This shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that there is a price tag for serving on your board.  Any planned gift should count.  A revocable will provision, a beneficiary designation on a life insurance policy or a payable on death bank account (even a modest percentage) is fine.  The key is that everyone participates at a level that is comfortable for them.  No one has to part with current assets.

  •  Create a culture that values planned gifts 

The board is responsible for setting the policies of your organization.  They can support efforts to raise more planned gifts by adopting generously inclusive policies that acknowledge both revocable and irrevocable deferred gifts.

  • Adopt sensible planned giving policies

Policies as to what planned gifts your organization will offer and acceptable assets create a road map for what your planned giving program will look like.  Reasonable limits on gift amounts, ages, payout rates and other gift criteria can insure that the gifts that you accept are appropriate for donors and valuable to your institution.  The development committee of the board in consultation with development staff and a planned giving advisory committee can recommend policies that protect your charity and encourage attractive gifts for your donors. 

  •  Communicate with the rest of the Board

Meetings of the full board are a forum for discussing ideas and the decision-making that is the cornerstone of a board’s responsibilities.  However, the research, due diligence, compliance and oversight work that a board does is accomplished through its committees and task forces. Most boards have standing committees created for a specific purpose.  While fundraising is a full board responsibility, a standing development committee is an effective way to have a voice for the fundraising function with your charity’s policy makers.

Ideally, the chief development officer (that is the most senior executive charged with fundraising responsibilities) will be a member, at least ex-officio, of the development committee of the board.  Conversely, at least one member of the board’s development committee should serve on your planned giving advisory committee. 

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