Communicating Planned Giving to Your Donors: 5 Tips

Planned giving is the underdog of charitable gifts. Often underestimated and underused, planned gifts have the potential to seriously grow your nonprofit’s long-term revenue. And, conveniently, anyone can make a planned gift.  

When donors make a planned gift, they solidify their legacy and make a real difference in the world (and tap into valuable tax benefits). Yet many nonprofits struggle to communicate their planned giving program to potential donors, leading to missed opportunities.

How can you best communicate your planned giving programs to meaningfully connect with donors? In this guide, we’ll explore some quick tips to engage donors in the world of planned giving. Here’s an overview of what we’ll cover:

  • Mention Planned Giving In Your Outreach
  • Be Personable and Engaging
  • Explain the Benefits for Donors
  • Use Clear Language
  • Provide Resources
  • Follow Up

Putting the work in ahead of time through thoughtful communication efforts will help build trust with your donors, an essential foundation you’ll need to start productively discussing planned gifts.

Mention Planned Giving In Your Outreach

It’s likely that donors don’t know about your planned giving program because you don’t talk about it enough. Simply put, the more you mention leaving a gift in their will, the more likely you are to receive a planned gift!

There are a couple of opportunities to highlight your various planned gift options. Keep in mind that donors may need time to commit to a planned gift may take a while for a donor to commit to. As you offer more chances for a donor to learn more about your planned giving program, you nudge them an inch closer to consideration. 

Communicating planned giving can be integrated into your regular fundraising and outreach efforts. In your email marketing, add a section dedicated to planned giving. This section does not need to be comprehensive. Instead, use it as a chance for donors to contact your team and follow a link to a dedicated web page to learn more.

Running standalone marketing campaigns can propel your planned giving forward, as well. For standalone campaigns, it’s important to target specific donor segments. Start with supporters who have exhibited a continued interest in your nonprofit and who align with specified age and income criteria. 

For instance, you could capitalize on the legacy month of August and build a Make-A-Will Month campaign to raise awareness and increase legacy gift outcomes. By centralizing planned giving communication within one month, your campaign can start a new pipeline flowing without overwhelming your team.

Be Personable and Engaging

Adopt a personable and engaging tone when communicating about planned giving. Consider planned giving from your prospect’s position—this giving type takes commitment and a special kind of trust in your organization. 

In your written communication and in-person conversations, use prompts that spark curiosity. Questions like, what type of legacy would you like to create? Or, how would you like to be remembered?

These prompts put donors in the correct frame of mind. Notice that they don’t flatly ask where a donor would like their money to go once they’ve passed. Rather, use these questions to inspire donors to adopt a philanthropic mindset. The conversations that follow these kinds of icebreakers are much more productive than ones that mention death.

Approach planned giving communications with the goal of understanding your donor’s unique interests. From there, you can eventually guide them to consider options that best reflect those needs. When donors feel understood, they are much more likely to connect with your organization.

Explain the Benefits for Donors

Here’s another opportunity to prioritize your donor’s perspective. Donors would like to know what sort of benefits they reap from planned giving programs. Be prepared to clearly explain how different types of planned gifts work and why a donor would choose one type over another. 

For instance, if a donor is interested in creating a bequest, make sure they’re aware of the associated estate tax deductions that will result. Mention that other planned giving types such as charitable remainder trusts can bring even further-reaching tax benefits. For some donors, these benefits may be a leading motivator for creating a planned gift in the first place, so being able to explain how they work and the impact they’ll have on your mission will be important. Just be sure to direct donors to financial experts for official advice.

Assure donors that they have the power to decide what legacy they would like to create. Whether a bequest is a tribute to a family member or a legacy for themselves, they have the ability to choose how to make a lasting impact. These gifts can be restricted to particular purposes or programs that the donor is especially interested in supporting.

Highlight naming opportunities and public acknowledgments that are available to honor donors for their contributions. Fully explained donor benefits empower donors to forge their own legacy with confidence. 

Provide Legacy Giving Resources 

Resources help donors understand their options and how they can get involved. To start, be sure you have a dedicated planned giving web page with clear contact information. Add a growing library of promotional and educational resources for supporters to learn more about your nonprofit’s specific planned giving program.

Additionally, if your organization does not have one already, consider creating a legacy society. These societies provide community connection opportunities while promoting your planned giving programs among dedicated supporters. 

Legacy societies are groups of members who have made a planned gift to your organization. They are opportunities to connect with your nonprofit and enjoy relationships with like-minded people. Mention legacy society perks like special volunteering opportunities, dedicated formal events, and other related activities within your regular newsletter communications. 

One-pager explainer attachments are another reliable planned giving resource. These documents provide a brief overview of planned giving and its benefits, lay out a case for the impact planned gifts have on your nonprofit, and share contact information to learn more. From here, build out a more comprehensive library of educational donor-facing resources about planned giving for use in different contexts—direct mail, email, social media, materials for in-person meetings, and more. 

Consider gathering testimonials from satisfied donors when crafting your one-pager. Testimonials help prospects get a better sense of why someone would make a planned gift.

Follow Up 

Keep track of your legacy gift communications beyond a donor’s first introduction. 

You can do this by using platforms that provide value to both your donors and your organization. These platforms enable donors to easily write their wills and create bequests. Although many nonprofits have historically found it difficult to keep track of donor bequests (since donors won’t always notify you of them), these online platforms are a helpful way to keep a documented record. They also make the process easier for donors by providing step-by-step instructions.

Finally, remember to keep planned gift donors engaged and follow up on documented leads throughout the fundraising lifecycle. Once you’ve identified qualified leads, make an ask only after you have established your donor’s interests.

Planned giving communication does not have to be difficult. For many donors, this is the most meaningful and important gift they will ever make. As you identify prospects and steward current donors, prioritize long-term donor relationships. Identify ways to combine planned giving into your current fundraising schedule. That way you can build out a planned gift communication strategy that will benefit your nonprofit over time.

Guest author: Patrick Schmitt

Patrick Schmitt is co-CEO of FreeWill, which he and fellow FreeWill co-CEO Jenny Xia founded at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business in 2016. FreeWill’s charitable giving platform makes it easier for nonprofit fundraising teams to unlock transformational gifts, and to date has generated over $6.6 billion in new gift commitments for thousands of nonprofit organizations. Patrick hosts FreeWill’s popular webinar series, educating thousands of nonprofit fundraising professionals each month about planned and non-cash giving strategies.

Before FreeWill, Patrick was the Head of Innovation at, where he helped grow the organization to 100 million users in four years. Prior to that, he ran email marketing for President Obama and served as Campaign Director for