Usually when we do think about estate giving, or so-called “planned giving,” we tend to think of really rich people.

But the AFP reports shares that a new study by Campbell & Company blows this preconception away. According to the AFP:

Most surprising for fundraisers was that income did not affect the likelihood that donors would make a bequest, or consider making one, in their wills. Accordingly, fundraisers should not focus solely on high-income individuals but attempt to cultivate all possible prospects.

This really shouldn’t be much of a “surprise,” the same results show up every time a study is done. Gurus like Robert Sharpe, Jr. have been telling us this for years.
Later on in the study, it says:

This study suggests that individuals aged 40 to 60 and those with at least a bachelor’s degree education were the most likely to name or consider naming a charity in their will.

Unfortunately, knowing something and acting on it, are two different things. Most of us who “know” we should be asking everyone to include us in their wills, still find ourselves limiting our relationship building to elderly, wealthy constituents.

In my opinion, asking for planned gifts is a public service we provide. I’ve been told that 70% of Americans die without a will. Whether or not they end up including our nonprofit in their will, the simple act of asking them to include us gets them thinking about wills. The vast majority of people underestimate the real value of their estate. So our asking them to consider including us, is a reminder for them to be proactive.

We will all be philanthropists at death: voluntary or involuntary. Either we’ll choose which causes our life’s work supports (family, charity, etc.) or Congress and the White House will choose for us (the war in Iraq, Wall St. bailouts, funding Medicare or Social Security).

Asking people to inlude our nonprofit in their will is not asking them to cheat their families. Most planned gifts are simply saying “after my family and other interests are taken care of, I want x% of my estate to go to these nonprofits.” This is called a “residuary bequest.”

If you go to a planned giving seminar, you’ll likely be dazzled by the variety of complicated planned giving tools. Here’s a small list, with links to websites (usually nonprofit’s) that show how to market each:

And you’ll probably hear examples of sophisticated estate planning like how Jackie Onastis used these tools to structure her estate to maximize the benefit to her family.

But don’t let that confuse you. The single easiest way to ask for a planned gift is to focus on the “residuary bequest.”

Here are some fundraising scripts, or key phrases, to help get you started:

  • Would you consider including the hospital in your estate plans?
  • After you’ve taken care of your family, would you consider asking your advisors about leaving the hospice in your will?
  • Are we already in your estate plans?

Asking for planned gifts doesn’t have to be rocket science. And we don’t have to be estate attorneys. We just need to consistently invite people to talk to their advisors about their estate planning.

So remember, Fundraising Secret #17: Ask everyone for a planned gift.

[This is part of’s “Fundraising Secrets” series. For all the articles in the series, go to: An executive summary of Bequest Donors: Demographics and Motivations of Potential and Actual Donors is available at the Cambell & Company website. If you want more ideas on possible wording donors might take to their advisors, go to the For Financial Professionals section of]

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