Guest Post: How to Find a Planned Giving Prospect

Most organizations have strong strategies in place for donor acquisition and donor retention for multiple giving levels, from small contributors to major donors. However, many do not place a big enough emphasis on planned giving.

Planned gifts, donations decided on in the present and allocated in the future, can be some of the largest gifts an organization receives. They are perceived as trickier to locate and solicit because:

– Donors don’t necessarily have to announce to your nonprofit that they’ve decided to leave a planned gift. The donations can easily be surprises.

– Planned giving donors have the stereotype of being enigmas, or rather, hard to define.

Planned giving programs don’t have to be the Mount Everest they’re cracked up to be. They don’t have to be scary.

There are methods to encourage donors to inform you of their plans, and there are traits you can look for when searching for planned giving prospects. We’ll be focusing on the latter for the remainder of this article.

Take this two-pronged approach to locate planned giving prospects.

Once you know who you’re looking for and how to find them, you’ll have no issue incorporating planned giving into your fundraising. You can start small and steadily expand your efforts until you have a lucrative, robust planned giving program.

For example, if you’re in advancement at a K-12 private or independent school, you can begin by speaking to a small selection of planned giving-qualified alumni. As you gain your footing and start to understand the sometimes complex process, you can begin to speak to more alumni, as well as parents.

The planned gift acquisition process is by no means a race. You’ll need to take your time and learn about its intricacies as you go.

Before you accomplish all of that though, you’ll need to know who you’re looking for! We’ll begin with the first of the two prongs: statistical evidence.

1. Statistical Evidence

While there aren’t five key characteristics that guarantee that you have a high-quality planned giving prospect in your midst, there are traits that indicate a higher likelihood of giving in this manner. The statistical markers listed below focus on basic facts that when combined, have some innate planned giving radar.

Perform a wealth screening to gather this informative data.

Owns Appreciated Property

Many of your largest planned gifts will be donated by your wealthiest prospects and donors. You’ll need to uncover who those people are. Examining a supporter’s appreciated property and its value is a solid starting point. From there, you’ll be able to gain a better understanding of the donor’s giving capacity.

Age Statistics

Planned gifts are commonly allocated in wills or trusts. In other words, planned gifts are legacy gifts, thought about in conjunction with estate planning and will writing. Mature donors are more likely to be planning and crafting their wills, which could include your organization, than your younger donors are.

Allocation of Assets

Continuing the same discussion from the age statistic, a planned gift is quite often a large allocation of assets. If a donor is married or has children, those family members will be a top priority in their will.

However, donors can choose to set up legal arrangements where their spouses and/or children are paid out of the trust first, and then the nonprofit receives the remainder. For situations like that, you’ll want to get people who are well-versed in the subject matter involved, like financial planners and lawyers.

2. Connections to Your Organization

As you likely already know, statistical inclinations become more potent when coupled with more behavioral, emotional, and/or personal indicators. Close connections to your organization will be incredibly significant in your search for planned giving candidates. There are a few ways those ties will manifest.

Dedication to Your Mission

When someone regularly shows a vested interest in supporting your cause, they are clearly dedicated to your mission. As such, if they have the other qualifiers, they might be a candidate for planned giving. Remember that there are many ways to support your cause, so keep your scope of search open to supporters who volunteer for your phonathon or always participate in your fundraisers, for example.

Affected by Your Nonprofit’s Service

Someone who has seen firsthand what your nonprofit does and has felt the positive impact you can have is naturally going to be very connected to you. They’ll be grateful and more open to talks about giving than a brand new prospect. If the candidate has some of the other markers of a planned giving prospect, your fundraisers should broach the subject.

Strong Giving History

Just like when you scout for any other kind of prospect, past giving is an incredibly powerful indicator. If that past giving happens to be to your organization, that’s even better. There’s a reason why retention is so crucial. Planned giving is no exception to this trend — 78% percent of donors who give planned gifts have already donated more than 15 gifts to the recipient organization in their lifetime.


Well, there you have it. Those six characteristics should be enough to get your search started. Dive right into the data!

About Bill Tedesco

Bill Tedesco is a well-known entrepreneur in the field of philanthropy with over 15 years of experience leading companies serving the fundraising profession.

Bill has personally conducted original research to identify markers of philanthropy and has developed modeling and analytical products that use those markers to accurately predict future giving.

Since 2007, Bill has been the founder, CEO and Managing Partner of DonorSearch.

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