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Skagit Valley Hospital

Investing in a Planned Giving Program: Is It Worth It?



Last week I was able to attend the Washington Planned Giving Council’s annual Planned Giving Day and enjoyed connecting with many professionals that I hadn’t had the opportunity to talk with in several months and meeting others for the first time. In this time of tight budgets, often resulting from decreased endowment earnings, many nonprofits are questioning their investment in building endowments and/or allocating resources to securing planned gifts. 

Here’s some statistics shared at the conference that demonstrate the value of having a healthy planned giving program.  I am not able to cite the sources of all of these, but I trust the reliability of the experts that reported them. 

1)  According to the most recent edition of Giving USA, released in June 2009, seven of the ten largest gifts from individuals last year were given as bequests or other planned gifts.

2)  The average estate gift nationwide is between $35,000 and $40,000. While most estate gifts are bequests or beneficiary designations (on life insurance policies, bank accounts or retirement accounts) and only pass to the charity at the end of the donor’s life, the investment today in securing the intention is small compared to the ultimate return.

3)  Cygnus Research reports that 45 percent of donors state they intend to leave a gift to charity in their estate plans; however, other sources report that only seven percent actually do, and of the wealthiest Americans—who receive the most benefit in reduced estate taxes—the number is 17 percent. This gap between “good idea intention” and actually completing the will, trust or related documents is ripe with opportunity for our sector.

With the budgets and staff at many nonprofits stretched thin, it may be challenging to think about allocating resources to securing gifts that will not be of immediate benefit.  However, focusing efforts on planned giving could position your organization for future sustainability without much initial investment.  At the same time, you’ll be creating opportunities for donors to make a meaningful contribution – even if they can’t afford to write a check today.


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About the Author

Aggie Sweeney

Aggie Sweeney CFRE

President & CEO

Aggie is a sought-after consultant and speaker. Nonprofit leaders trust that she can tackle complex campaign issues and give them solid advice.


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