The Catholic Fundraiser

Planned Giving: Understanding the Basics, the Data, and How to Augment Your Marketing Strategy

Posted by John Jensen, CFP on 8/8/18 1:42 PM
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Planned Giving: Understanding the Basics, the Data, and How to Augment Your Marketing Strategy

For most NCDC members, planned giving is (or should be) both a key revenue source and a source with lots of revenue growth potential. To do this, we need to approach it the right way. We also need to know who makes these decisions, when they make them, and what to look for.

There are several types of donors who are excellent planned giving prospects. Older, long-term donors are well established as great prospects. However, older one- and two-gift donors can also have potential for planned giving — particularly if they are the right type of donors.

What demographics make up planned giving for the next few years?

One questions inevitably arises: “How old?” The few remaining GI Generation donors — Catholic groups have more than a few of these — are good prospects. However, most bequests will be coming from members of the Silent Generation. The “Silents” are those born between 1925 and 1945 and are now between ages 73 and 93.

These “Silents” are expected to generate some 80 percent of the bequests over the next two decades. You want to market these gifts to the “Silents” for the same reason that Jesse James robbed banks — because that’s where the money is!

What of the Baby Boomers? The oldest of the Boomers are just now starting to enter the “estate planning” stage of life. Most Boomers have not begun to seriously start their estate planning efforts. For most Catholic groups, it is best to focus on those aged 70 and older. We usually have far too many over 70 to worry much about younger prospects.

Some suggest that we should market to younger donors, since they will eventually do their will and make bequests. Sharpe has found that following this strategy is simply not effective. Younger donors who are in their 50s and early 60s are just not yet ready.

Younger donors are less likely to follow through when it comes to planned giving. 

Our studies show that the younger a donor is when the decision for planned giving is made, the lower the probability that the gift will actually come in when the donor ultimately passes away.

We find that most bequests come from final wills that were signed within four to five years of death. In fact, the most common time for a final will containing a bequest to be signed is in the year prior to death, followed by the year of death.

One national study suggests that 50 percent of bequests come from donors who had made no charitable bequests in any prior will. This may overstate the situation, but the direction is clear. Reinforcing this assertion is two clear statistics. More bequests come from donors passing away in their 90s than passing away in their 70s. Our studies show that the most common age at death for bequest donors is in the early to mid-90s. These same studies also show that bequest donors really do live longer than donors who don’t make bequests.

Even gender plays a role in planned giving. 

Women currently make some 70 percent of bequests, but this percentage is shrinking as men live longer. In fact, some studies suggest that in about 20 years, the number of men and women over 65 will be equal.

Explore our digital resource page — Donor-Advised Funds 101 — to learn best practices for engaging with donors who use donor-advised fund accounts.

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John Jensen, CFP

Written by John Jensen, CFP

John Jensen is SVP & Senior Consultant for Sharpe Group, based in Washington D.C. With over 35 years of fundraising experience, John works with charitable organizations in Washington and across the country to design and implement effective charitable gift planning programs. He has a particular specialty working with national and direct mail based charities. A frequent speaker at local and national gatherings of gift planning professionals, he has served as a columnist and member of the editorial advisory boards of a number of planned giving publications. He was formerly the Development VP at The Nature Conservancy and the National Wildlife Federation. In those roles, he was responsible for major expansions of both planned giving and direct marketing. A Certified Financial Planner, John was also the Development Director of the Maine Audubon Society and the Executive Director of the Maine Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. He was the founding chairman of Earth Share and a 2 term member of the Maine House of Representatives.

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