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Ramp Up Planned Giving

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” (Chinese Proverb and highly applicable to parish planned giving)

Parish after parish laments that they never started a planned giving program. Too often this is heard: “We’ve been meaning to get that started.” Though the initiating priest and parish council may see limited near term benefits, future priests and parish councils will thank God that someone had vision and energy to start a planned giving program and establish an endowment for the furtherance of the gospel and the fulfillment of the mission of the parish.

Here are the basics:

  • Think strategically. Planned gifts are by far and away the largest gifts that nonprofits, including parishes, receive.

  • Research shows that 3% of a nonprofit’s donor base already have the organization in their wills. How much could this be increased through low-key, gentle encouragement for others to participate?

  • Keep it simple. 95% of planned giving in America is through a simple bequest. For technical forms of planned giving the parishioner (not the parish) should secure the help of an attorney.

  • Articulate in compelling and inspiring language what a meaningful planned gift would accomplish.

  • Create a simple brochure. Keep it visible for parishioners. Include sample language for types of bequests.

  • Consider establishing a “Legacy and Endowment Society” whereby those who commit to including the parish in their estate plans are honored each year (remembering that wills can be changed, so keep committed donors close).

  • In the past dozen parishes where the author was the capital campaign consultant, fully 40% of parishioners that were asked either committed to including the parish in their estate plan or said that they could consider doing so.

  • Establish two endowments: 1) a restricted endowment for new programs and initiatives whereby the principle remains in perpetuity; and 2) an unrestricted endowment for new construction, major renovation and property acquisition.

  • NEVER use planned gifts to fund the operating expenses. These should be funded through generous, sacrificial and biblical stewardship giving!

  • Withdraw no more than 4% of the restricted endowment each year though all the unrestricted endowment could be used for a building, renovation or property acquisition project.

  • If appropriate announce when a planned gift matures, gently keeping the practice in the consciousness of parishioners.

  • DEFINITELY visit those very materially blessed parishioners and very humbly and courteously ask them to include the parish in their estate plans – “Ask and you shall receive.”

  • Maintain a confidential database of those who have included, are thinking about including, or may meaningfully include the parish in their estate plans and stay close to them, introducing the idea, ensuring that they remain committed and are deeply appreciated by the parish


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