First Steps You Should Take to Launch a Planned Giving Program

900 500 Gabby Wallin

Written by Dr. Lou Traina, CFRM, a fundraising consultant and IMPACT Coach.

Question: What are the first steps a nonprofit should take to launch a planned giving program? 

Answer: Anything that needs a major initiative requires good intel. I have learned over the years that information gathering is a requirement for practitioner success. All major gift officers need an extremely prominent level of practitioner expertise.  In preparation for the intelligence-gathering needed for new projects, I think of incorporating both quantitative research (empirical analysis) and qualitative studies (personal interviews). This mixed-methods approach allows the researcher to find large populations using wealth engines, followed by a smaller, selective sample of prospects for one-on-one interviews. In this way, the results of the interviews from the smaller sample will represent the responses for the larger populations. As a result, forecasts can be made in preparing the practitioner’s plan. This will help dictate the major gift officer’s plan of action.  

I would highly recommend a subscription to iWave. It provides a powerful wealth engine that qualifies donors and prospects based on capacity, the propensity to give or volunteer to nonprofits, and most importantly, the level of affinity to the nonprofit.  Prospect lists can be placed into four categories or buckets: Distinguished Philanthropists, Your Champions, Hidden Gems, and Not Now.  As an example, if a nonprofit required Board directors and professional volunteers to serve on committees, you could select a sample from the Your Champions bucket to interview.  

Conduct analytic research working with wealth engines for such groups as state attorneys, financial advisors, estate planners, and accountants. I would find those individuals who are active in the community or those who serve on nonprofit organizational Boards, as they are more inclined to collaborate with their nonprofit counterparts. Select from the lists a sample of individuals to take part in a one-on-one interview that would seek their advice on: 

  • The mission of the nonprofit I’m serving, 
  • The nonprofit’s planned giving initiative and the benefits to the donor, 
  • The Board leadership and opportunities for Board and committee volunteer leadership,  
  • Their willingness to talk to their clients about supporting local nonprofit organizations, 
  • How best to work with individual planned giving professionals and to collaborate with the greater estate planning community, 
  • The feasibility of the fundraising goal. Once the research is complete, generate the final report or road map for a reliable, predictable, and feasible planned giving campaign.  

Once the research is complete, generate the final report or road map for a reliable, predictable, and feasible planned giving campaign.  

One final note, unfortunately, our profession does not require major gift officers to have a research background, so I recommend considering professional coaching for the CEO and gift officers; staff training on research strategies and techniques, including qualitative field research; and hiring a consultant who has the mixed-methods research expertise that will provide the intelligence needed for a reliable and successful planned giving program. Good luck!