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Planned Giving Program: The Key Elements


A planned giving program is one where a donor can decide to leave money, assets or any other form of property to a non-profit organization in the event of his/her death. Basically, it is therefore a system through which all the benefits that a donor has acquired throughout his/her life are passed down to a non-profit organization. It is imperative for one to understand that for this property or money to be left behind and passed on to someone else or a group of persons, there must be a will to prove that the said persons are actually the rightful owners claiming the money or property. It will also confirm that the deceased actually intended to bequeath the property to the said persons. Also referred to as planned gifts, this system has enabled many organizations to fulfill their intended purposes in the society and has enabled them to meet their fiscal demands where they may fall short of it.

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A planned program is very important for the fiscal strength of any organization if it is successfully carried out. Many programs developed for this reason have crashed following the lack of expertise and the know-how on how to run a successful program. The management of the organization needs to be equipped with this knowledge and should be ready to handle the task ahead of them. This paper seeks to address key issues in a successful planned giving program. We will look at the factors to consider in order for one to run a successful planned giving program.

What then are the elements of a successful planned giving program?

The elements of a successful planned giving program are designed to enable an organization to work effectively without many difficulties. A planned giving strategic plan should work concurrently with the overall organizational strategic plan to ensure that there is no friction between the established policies and the procedures and all fundraisers are working hand in hand with each other (Leslie, 2007). To ensure that the organization’s policies and the planned giving strategy blend perfectly, these elements have to be considered and thereafter put into action;

  • Establish a planned giving committee: as mentioned earlier, the organization’s management needs to be equipped with the knowledge and the expertise on how to run a successful planned giving program. These are the people who form the committee. The committee will be charged with the responsibility of identifying the candidates who qualify for the planned gifts and the possible donors, establish a system of checks and balances to ensure that there is transparency and accountability in the organization, develop a marketing strategy to sell their ideas and goals to the community and by so doing possible donors and finally to educate the staff of the organization on how to handle matters pertaining to the donors and pertinent to the goals and targets of the organization (Kent, Allan and Thomas, 2002). The members of the committee should also posses some level of integrity and accountability, thereby being an example to the rest of the staff.
  • Develop a relationship with the donors: in every successful business, the business person develops a rapport with the client. Although the circumstances and the situations may be different, in that in planned giving there is no intention of making a profit, the above statement applies to both the cases. For the donors to be sufficiently charitable and show their continued support to the organization, they need to be kept in touch with what is actually happening in the organizations. The process of continued relationship development with established donors is a key element in a successful planned giving program. It keeps the donors committed to the goals and targets and integrates them with the organization. Two methods of donor involvement have been successful in recent years and should be useful to anyone who intends to run a successful planned giving program; use of journals and reports, keeping the members updated and informed on what is taking place and what is due to take place. Some of the donors should be in the board/committee set to oversee the management of the organization and to implement the policies that run it.
  • Establish a networking system: the idea here is to use the already existing donors to reach out to other possible donors. This will, of course, only be realized if the element mentioned above, developing a relationship with the donors is put into practice and is seen to be effective. In many societies, people of the same social class tend to relate with each other frequently and therefore have more information and contacts of each other when compared to the rest of the people. This however does not mean that planned giving is only for the wealthy. It is more of the phrase “birds of the same feathers flock together”. Anyone is capable of contributing to these organizations. The question, however, is how many are willing to contribute to these organizations? Using the donors to convince their friends to contribute is a good networking system (Ted, James, Pamela and 2006). This is the only way to reach out to masses of individuals who are willing to contribute.
  • Market the organization: although this may fall under the responsibilities of the committee, marketing is an essential element in planned giving. The organization needs to sell its ideas, goals and targets, and finally preach its course to the community. The only way to do so is by developing a good marketing strategy. Many organizations have come up with marketing strategies that they have upheld and some have actually proved to be effective and worth the time. Use of brochures and advertisements is perhaps the oldest trick in the book. This has proved to be effective to some extent (Kent, 1999). The greatest shortcoming of this method is that not all the people are reached through the brochures and advertisements. One method that has proved to be an effective way of marketing is by finding a community foundation partner. Already established community organizations have the relevant information on the ins and outs of the community. They participate in various community projects and by involving the organization in these projects; they get the necessary publicity that they require in the community. Through these events, they are also able to get access to people who never had information on the existence of the organization or its mission. Whatever method one chooses to use, the point remains that marketing is very important for an organization and it is up to the management to ensure that the marketing strategy they choose is the best and will sell its ideas and reach out to the community.
  • Hold seminars and conferences to teach the staff and the donors: this element is put in place simply to ensure that the organization and all its members are all in he same page. The relevant authorities in particular fields of engagement should train and teach the members the tricks of survival in the industry. They should also encourage the workers to work diligently and emphasize on the fact that it is a “non-profit” organization.
  • Evaluate and revise the program regularly: once in a while, at least in a period of 3-5 years, it is important to examine and look back at the gains and short comings of the committee. The policies and the measures taken to ensure that the targets are met and need to be reviewed to ensure that the mistakes, if any were made, are avoided and do not occur again. It will also create a floor for accountability to the donors from the management.


Planned gifts are key to any society. A properly established planned giving system ensures that people in the community are able to meet their needs through one way or the other. A well designed giving program should therefore be designed to promote donor education, gratuity, rapports and volunteerism. These, in my opinion, are what constitute a good society.


Chris, M. (2008). Five steps for launching a successful planned giving program, giving programs, 42(6), 12-13.

Kent, E.D. (1999). Conducting a successful capital campaign. Indiana:Indiana University press.

Kent E.D, Allan M.S & Thomas W.H. (2002). Conducting a successful major gifts and planned giving program. Indiana: Indiana University Press.

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Leslie, H. (2007). Ten steps to a successful planned giving program. A basic strategic plan, 26(3), 7-9,

Ted, H, James M G, Pamela M G, & Christopher C, (2006), major donors: finding big gifts in your data base and online. New York: Oxford University Press.

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