Mining Annual Fund Donors for Planned Giving

Planned Giving
Date Published
Kathy Giles

Have you ever received an unexpected bequest gift? Immediately looking up the donor with a feeling of sheer appreciation for this unknown hero who remembered your organization and mission. Not to mention the feeling of what this unexpected income of $50,000, $100,000, or more does to your annual goal.

Planned giving is an important part of all fundraising programs, providing future revenue that can help sustain and grow the organization. It is equally as important for donors. It allows your most dedicated supporters to leave a legacy and help a cause that is close to them.

But how do you find these loyal donors?

There is no special trick to finding prospects for planned giving. Unlike major gifts, which rely on wealth screening, gift amounts, and research to help determine who is capable of making a major gift. A Planned giving donor – especially for estate planning – is right in front of you and could be one of your loyal annual fund donors.

But the key word is “loyal.” You are looking for donors who have shown an ongoing interest in your mission. Those who have given year after year at any gift amount. That includes all the $5 donors. Gift amount will not help determine who are planned giving prospects. You are not looking for the largest gifts, but for consistent giving.

There are companies that can help you crunch the data to identify these donors. If you have a large file and a budget that will allow for additional data appends, then this may be a worthwhile option. You will more than make up for the cost with the first gift, though it may take many years.

If you have a relatively small file or a tight budget, there is no reason why you can’t mine your own data for planned giving prospects. Here are a few tips that can help you target your planned giving program. 

  • To begin try looking at the giving history of donors who have made bequest gifts. Though there are always exceptions, you will most likely see similar patterns: multiple gifts per year, annual consecutive giving, with gift amounts staying within the scope of the annual fund. You can use this research to help build the criteria for your planned giving prospects.
  • Giving history is very important. You want to identify those donors who are dedicated to your mission. I know you have seen donors who have made a few gifts over a couple years, never to be heard from again. These are not your targets. You are looking for those donors who believe in what you do. Those who have made three or more gifts annually and have given for consecutive years. The longer someone has given to you the better. You may also want to look for donors who have made a single gift annually but have given consecutively for five or more years. You might be surprised to find out how many of your donors have been giving for 15 or 20 years. And don’t forget to include your monthly donors!
  • It is all right to tap into your lapsed file. You will want to make sure you have run a NCOA and deceased append on your file.
  • There is not a gift amount threshold. Planned giving donors come from all walks of life, and this is how an individual can make a large impact on a cause without being a millionaire. This is also why you should have kept all of the $5 donors on your file. Donors who have been making multiple $5 or $25 gifts each year are perfect prospects. So, be inclusive when you are building your criteria. Include donors who have made gifts of all sizes.
  • Don’t forget age. Age is a big qualifier for planned giving. Just with all other communications, you want to reach the right person with the right message at the right time. For planned giving, you want to target people who are focusing more on estate planning. Your criteria should include donors who are 60 years old or older. This is one instance when engaging a company that can do an age append on your file would be useful.Having this information on file is extremely helpful for planned giving.
  • Volunteers are great prospects for planned giving. These are people who have an obvious connection to your organization. They may not have made a gift, but they have given hours of valuable time. Some volunteers may not have the means to give a donation during their life, but they may be able to give a planned gift. You will want to again target those who are 60 years old or older and have shown a long-term commitment to your organization.

Whether you have an established planned giving program or you are just starting, you don’t have to look any farther for your prospects than your annual fund donors. Your list is likely full of people who believe in your mission and want to have an impact on the future of your organization.

About the Author:
Kathy Giles
Director of Client Management, Agency Services

Role at the Company

As an Account Director with Agency Services I work with clients to develop their direct response, annual giving, and membership programs. I am responsible for the strategy, budget, creative oversight, planning, and results reporting for each campaign as well as ensuring we are meeting all client expectations. I also work to build the client relationship to not only retain the client, but to also look for opportunities to increase activities with clients, through any of our three business areas. And new business is always on the radar!

What excites you about your work at AFG?

With the three divisions, we have more opportunities to support our clients. We can extend the services offered to provide more full-service-oriented solutions to current and prospective clients, allowing AFG to become more involved with a client’s program. This also allows for more growth and learning, on a personal note.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

To feed my love of stories and storytelling, I went to school for film production, with a concentration in documentary film. I have had the opportunity to work on a few documentaries including one for the United Nations on the history of interpretation where I was able to visit several embassies and spoke with the amazing people in the UN Interpretation Service.

Today, I get to tell the stories of the non-profit clients I work with.

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