Posted , by Victoria Dietz, Campaign Manager. Topic: Planned Giving.

The Association for Fundraising Professionals and their strategic partners adopted the third week in October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. Through this initiative, AFP and the Financial Awareness Foundation hope to educate, highlight and celebrate estate planning and the important role nonprofits play in this field.

According to the 2012 Bank of America Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy, 43% of high-net-worth individuals report having a charitable provision in their will. However, nonprofits often mistakenly focus solely on current major gift donors for planned gifts. When researching planned giving prospects, nonprofits should look to their most loyal donors first—and this doesn’t mean those that give the largest gifts. Research suggests the best planned giving prospects are those with modest but steady giving patterns. These donors are also likely to be engaged beyond giving monetarily; they likely volunteer their time and attend events regularly.

In her recent visit to Hampton Roads, Penelope Burk, author of Donor-Centered Fundraising, advised that nonprofits should invest in strategic donor communication and stewardship. According to Burk, these efforts pay dividends when a prospect is ready to consider a planned gift, or what is often referred to as “the ultimate gift.” While it’s easy to focus on the technical nature of this type of giving, it is important to remember that planned gifts are, above all, relationship-based.

Here are some ways to increase your nonprofit’s planned giving profile:

• Work to build long-term relationships; don’t take donors of modest gift levels for granted; learn what motivates them and why they give year after year.
• Don’t assume only the most wealthy give planned gifts; while we all know about jaw dropping mega-bequests, according to Blackbaud, the average charitable bequest gift in the United States is between $35,000 and $70,000.
• Talk to your loyal donors about their personal interest and how they can have an even bigger impact at the nonprofit. Fancy brochures and detailed knowledge of planned giving vehicles are not required; just get the conversation started in a one-on-one setting.
• Partner with a planned giving professional. Two out of three advisors say they are open to collaboration with nonprofits, according to the 2013 Stelter Donor Insight Report.

For more information on National Estate Planning Awareness Week, visit AFP’s site.

And for our readers in Hampton Roads, Keith Curtis will be presenting on “Philanthropy & High Net Worth Individuals” to Hampton Roads Estate Planning Council on November 19. More information can be found at

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