Identifying Planned Gift Prospects

The prospecting process can be expensive and complicated. While there are companies out there (good ones) that can screen your fundraising database and provide ratings for planned giving prospects, there are also things you can do yourself to identify those most likely to make a planned gift.

Profile your own donors
One of the easiest ways to begin prospecting is to look at your own realized bequests and completed planned gifts. What characteristics do these donors have in common? Look at your realized bequests and determine the date the will was written and the date the donor died.  On average, how many years passed between making the will and when the gift was realized?  (Try to find out if the will was the donor’s first will or a revision. This can be tricky to figure out.) At what age did the donor make the will benefiting your organization? Are your estate gifts coming from married couples or single individuals? Are your estate gift donors primarily male or female? Had these donor’s made annual fund or major gifts before? How much, in what amounts, and how frequently? What were the connections between the planned gift donor and the organization? Prepare a profile of your donors to incorporate what you learn into your prospecting. 

Mine the annual fund
Research indicates that many donors who establish charitable estate gifts and charitable gift annuities are not comfortable with market risk. They are cautious investors, don’t consider themselves wealthy (even if we do), and are concerned about outliving their resources.  These prospects will be unlikely to have made major gifts in the past. It is likely though that they have made multiple annual fund gifts and they may be for very small amounts. 

Senior leadership and volunteers
Retired board members and senior executive staff of your own organization are likely prospects for planned gifts. Their experience with the organization make them likely to make a planned gift. In addition, their giving can inspire others to consider a planned gift. Consider targeting volunteers, members, if you are a membership organization, or others with a deep connection to your mission. If these prospects also have capacity, they may be good planned giving prospects.

Combination planned gifts
Many very large major gifts contain a planned gift component. Seven and eight figure gifts are often supplemented with a planned gift. Even for the ultra-wealthy, an outright gift of this magnitude can be difficult and not tax-efficient. Consider your largest major gift prospects as prospects for a planned gift as well. Fundraisers whose titles include "gift planning" or "planned giving" should be meeting on a regular basis with major gift staff to discuss their prospects.  Listen carefully for prospects who object to a planned gift because of liquidity problems, estate planning concerns, or the timing of a gift. A deferred gift may help a major gift donor solve financial and estate planning problems and make a gift at the same time.

Prospecting through marketing
General planned giving marketing efforts will identify those not otherwise targeted using the methods described above. Broad-based marketing will target those people who are connected to your organization in some way or are generally supportive of your mission. These may be people who have benefited from the work you do, for example, if you are a social service or health care organization. A membership organization such as a museum or an arts charity will target its members. Some individuals will want to advance your cause because they agree with your mission. For example, a human rights charity or a non-profit trade association will want to support work consistent with their values or interests.   

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