What is Planned Giving?

Planned Giving is a form of stewardship for the future. Individuals generally contribute assets they have accumulated during their lifetimes (savings, investments, real estate, retirement plan benefits, life insurance policies, and tangible personal property) — rather than giving from annual income (check book or credit card philanthropy).

Planned gifts generally are meant to perpetuate something of great value and meaning. A planned gift is the ultimate one a person can make, both in size and finality. Most often, a planned gift is intended for a permanent endowment fund. Rarely, if ever, do donors designate their ultimate gift for spending in the annual operating budget or a capital project.

Ultimate gifts take some planning. Donors may need to seek professional counsel before they make a full commitment. Timing, valuation of assets, overall estate and financial plan, and tax considerations are added to the mix of generosity and commitment. Some take effect at death; some during lifetime. Each charitable estate plan is unique, but there are three basic groups or types of gifts that comprise planned giving: bequests, life income arrangements (trusts, gift annuities, and pooled income funds), and transfers of not readily marketable assets.

While it is useful for planned gift fund-raisers to know their way around the world of finance, the tax benefits of charitable giving, and the life issues and concerns for people over 50, your church can run a successful planned giving effort without hiring a professional and without spending a great deal of money to train a group of volunteers.

Asking for and securing planned gifts requires excellent interpersonal skills, commitment to the cause, a marketing plan, considerable patience, some technical knowledge, and the ability to recognize when they need to consult a professional or retain counsel. As with all successful fund-raising, the most effective "ask" for a planned gift is made in person, face-to-face, by someone who has already made a similar gift.