Want to Get More Big Estate Gifts? Try This

 photo:  ESB Professional /shutterstock

 photo: ESB Professional/shutterstock

Like many charities, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its 56 local affiliates have worked hard to expand the number of people who leave the charity money in their wills.

Bequest donations to Planned Parenthood have grown from $2.3 million received in fiscal 1996 to more than $24 million this year. But fundraisers had no idea of how much they could expect to receive in coming years.

To combat that problem, get more bequests and form strategies for interacting with living donors who plan to give through their wills, Planned Parenthood held a “Bequest Challenge: Finishing Strong” campaign, said Dianne Armstrong, the charity’s national director of planned giving.

The campaign, held in conjunction with a fundraising drive commemorating the organization’s 100th year, she said, is helping Planned Parenthood achieve all of its goals by going straight to the source: individual donors.

Armstrong explained how the campaign worked at a session of the annual conference of the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners in Baltimore:  First, Planned Parenthood sent thousands of letters to existing and potential bequest donors asking them to fill out a form documenting their bequest intentions.

As an incentive, the charity offered to donate 10 percent of the estimated amount of any intended bequest to Planned Parenthood headquarters or affiliate when donors gave a dollar amount, up to $25,000. If donors said they planned to make a bequest but declined to state a dollar figure, the charity offered to give $1,000 to the recipient Planned Parenthood unit.

To raise the money needed to make those payments, the federation turned to three affluent, longtime supporters whose combined gifts for the challenge campaign totaled $20 million. Fundraisers figured that would be enough to get some $200 million in documented bequest intentions in return.

The campaign has far exceeded those expectations: Planned Parenthood now has more than $326 million in documented bequest intentions from 2,179 donors, 79 percent of whom are 62 or older.

Planned Parenthood has attracted brand new bequest plans from 900 people whose documented future gifts account for 43 percent of the total, while donors who Planned Parenthood knew about previously are expected to contribute 57 percent.

Among other benefits of the challenge campaign, which will issue a “last call” to donors before officially closing at the end of 2017: an expanded pipeline for future bequests, clarity on intended bequests to be used in strengthening relations with donors, and increased effectiveness among fundraisers interacting with donors, based on information gleaned in the campaign.

As Armstrong said in closing: “We now have the basis for stewardship clarity” for how to thank and make the most of interactions with committed donors in hundreds of calls and visits.