Astounding Facts About Estate Giving

Because August is “Make A Will” month, I’ve been writing each week about how you can encourage your donors to designate your nonprofit in their will.

Last week I focused on the importance of using phrases that work better than our industry estate-giving language.

Now, I’d like to convey certain facts that can guide you to raising more planned-giving revenue.

Astounding Facts

  1. The most common type of planned gifts are “bequests,” which are gifts made through a will or trust.

    More than 85% of planned gifts are bequests. Other types of planned gifts include IRA designations, life insurance gifts, charitable lead trusts, and more, but none of them are as easy or impactful as gifts made through a will or trust.

    Therefore, focus your efforts on asking donors to designate your agency in their will.

  2. One of the biggest barriers to securing planned gifts is that many people don’t have a will or any estate planning at all.

    Fewer than 50% of baby boomers have a will, and less than 40% of parents have one.

    The top reason people haven’t made a will is simply: “I haven’t gotten around to it.” This is a huge opportunity to help your supporters understand why creating a will is important and how they can use it to generously support the causes they care about, like yours.

  3. People who plan to leave bequests increase their annual giving by an average of 75% in subsequent years.

    The takeaway is that planned-giving donors are loyal to your nonprofit, and in an age when donor retention is in free-fall, that alone is an astounding fact!

    Further, in the next two decades baby boomers will leave behind $30 trillion in assets. This is the largest wealth transfer in human history and may be the biggest opportunity for philanthropy in the history of the world.

    Planned giving generates about $40 billion for nonprofits each year — an amount expected to double in the next decade based on changing demographics.

  4. People who don’t have children and have given steadily to your agency are more likely to respond to a planned-giving appeal.

    All of your supporters have the potential to make planned gifts, but research shows that a few attributes make someone more likely to support your organization in their estate: not having children and having a long history of giving to you. Yet organizations also frequently receive planned gifts from people who have never donated before, so it’s wise to cast a broad net.

  5. Planned gifts are significant.

    Bequests are up to 1,000 times larger than a donor’s typical donation. The average bequest on is $78,000, often from middle-class donors.

Use This Sentence

Here’s a simple sentence that you can use with your donors:

I hereby give, devise, and bequeath $_____ or_____% of the net proceeds after my estate is settled, to [Insert your nonprofit’s name], Federal Tax ID number [insert your nonprofit’s FTID], located at [insert your nonprofit’s mailing address], for its general use and purpose.

For more information, contact Executive Director [insert name and contact info] or Advancement Officer [insert name and contact info].

Don’t Believe Me?

By now you know that I’m a huge fan of In fact, you can read FreeWill’s second annual Planned Giving Report, which analyzes data from more than 80,000 wills created with their free online tool during the past year. In this in-depth report, the site highlights trends across age, gender, marital status, geography, and other key metrics like pet ownership. Also included is a brand-new section detailing the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on planned gifts.

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