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Important Numbers You, Your Boss & Your Board Need To Know About Planned Gifts – Part I

Earlier this year I read a great blog on a popular planned gift topical website written by Patrick Schmitt and Cathy R Sheffield sharing a series of interesting numbers around planned gift programs. Those figures were compelling and prompted me to think of other important numbers that we should know and share with others in our circle of influence. I’ve got too many to share in a single blog so I've decided to write a short series of blogs over the next two months.  I hope they excite your curiosity and prompt you to take some of my suggestions actions. 

From the referenced blog, I’m sharing a few numbers interspersed with other numbers of interest. Let’s get started:

$30 Trillion

In the next 20 years, there may be $30 trillion or more inherited by the Baby Boomer population’s children and grandchildren. It’s been estimated that $1.5 - $6 trillion in charitable gifts might be designated to non-profits in the U.S. between 2017 and 2030. The Boomers own half of all the wealth in the United States making what you do, who you market to and how often you promote planned gifts very important. The next two decades may be the single biggest opportunity for philanthropy in the history of the world.

The single biggest opportunity your organization has to garner planned gifts from your constituents is to know who your best prospects are for planned gifts.

You might be surprised, because they aren’t all old – and they aren’t all super rich.  Rather, they range in age from mid-40’s to mid-80’s and their annual income is healthy but not usually extraordinary.  They’re accumulating assets as you read this blog and more than 8% of our fellow American’s have already decided where their charitable deferred gifts will go. Another 30% or so are still making up their minds whether to do so or not. 

Here’s where you come in.  Ask your best prospects for planned gifts to partner with your organization through their deferred gift intention.  If you don’t ask – they won’t respond.  If you aren’t promoting the message to your supporters and affiliated constituents that you appreciate and accept gifts through wills, trusts, beneficiary designation forms, you’ve already missed out on the first year of the Baby Boomer Trillions transfer. You must put in the work to generate these gifts – they don’t appear by hoping that they will. 


It’s been estimated that 9-to-9.5 out of every planned gifts is through a bequest – the simplest form of planned gift to understand and promote.  I’ve written a useful glossary of planned giving terms (link) that every gift officer, organizational leader and member of the governing board should know.  I also wrote a paper in 2009 that stands the test of time.  My suggestions for how to talk with donors about planned gifts have not changed.   It might even be easier than you think!

Tax benefits of making planned gifts are not the primary reason they are made, though planned gifts have often been thought of as the private purview of credentialed legal and financial professionals. With terms like “present value methodology,” “four-tier system of taxation,” and “current IRS-mandated discount rate,” it’s no wonder why many of us feel this way and hesitate to enter into discussions about planned gifts.

Donors, tell us though, that they want to make a difference in the world they live in, both now and in the future. Successful planned giving programs start with simple messaging and evolve into life-long relationships with constituents. Start your planned giving program by throwing out the law school admissions form on your desk and start talking with donors about their dreams and wishes for your organization!

Get Started

Predictive-gift modeling for planned gifts are available from Blackbaud Target Analytics. We’ve been studying deferred gift donors for more than 20 years and we’re experts at working with your data to identify them in your database.  The Planned Gift Likelihood model determines which constituents are best targets for planned giving initiatives. The model identifies individuals that have a strong relationship with an organization — commonly those who have been regular and loyal contributors and are at a life-stage where they are actively considering options for their estate. Since the size of a planned gift is difficult to predict accurately, we focus on understanding each donor’s connection with an organization, first through an analysis of their giving history, then by analyzing demographic and lifestyle attributes that provide insight into their nature and reason for giving.

To learn more about how Target Analytics can help your organization identify planned gift prospects, visit

Posted by Katherine Swank on Jun 12, 2018 3:25 PM America/New_York

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