Pave the Way for Legacy Gifting for Your Nonprofit

Emily Messegee

CFP®, MBA, Wealth Advisor, Director


Nonprofits can lay the groundwork for improved legacy gifting with simple methods such as creating a gift-acceptance policy.

Senior man looking at paperwork

While a nonprofit shouldn’t count its chickens before they hatch, legacy gifting offers nearly guaranteed revenue that an organization can count on for long-term planning. The ability to plan strategically thanks to a foreseeable pipeline of funding mirrors how for-profit companies can make revenue and profit projections based on their subscriber bases.

But accepting and managing legacy gifts can sometimes pose challenges or even bring up the question, “Is that possible?” regarding less-common donations like annuities or real estate. The good news is that organizations don’t need to have all the answers right away and should accept legacy gifts even if the initial value or distribution method seems unclear.


Laying the groundwork with a gift-acceptance policy

My advice is to have some guidelines in place, working with the base knowledge that there is almost always a way to make donations work in an organization’s favor. But since every donor’s legacy gift might look a little different, there is no need to have a full road map for every scenario.

The gift-acceptance policy should provide an overview of legacy gifting and related steps to take. These might include considerations regarding how the donor would like to be recognized for their gift, ensuring proper record keeping is in place and maintained and other general best practices that will help guide the process.


Cultivating intention

Nonprofit organizations are tasked with the unique obligation to not ask too much of their donors while also presenting the available opportunities for the donors’ legacy planning and how to maximize their gifts through thorough estate planning. While there is no universal way to do this, I’ve seen organizations find success planting the seed by sharing options that are specific to their donor bases and the current stage in life that the donors are in.

The “rule of seven” in marketing states that it takes an average of seven messages per customer to drive a purchase. That concept is applicable with donors, too. If you can leverage the testimonials of donors that have estate plans that include your organization — encouraging them to discuss their processes, decisions, and reasoning — it might help others understand that legacy gifting can be simple and impactful.


Making legacy gifting easy

Once someone is interested in including a nonprofit in their estate plan, it’s the organization’s job to confirm the details and work with their financial adviser or estate planner to ensure that all necessary information is shared.

For complex gifts, like the transfer of property — which will likely require more legwork than being named as a beneficiary on an IRA or other type of retirement account — it’s important to make sure that the intended gift can be donated when the time comes. This reinforces the point of handling these types of donations on a case-by-case basis, since they can look and work very differently.

The shared goal for donors and nonprofits should always be to optimize gifting and help the donor understand their impact and options. Opening the door to the conversation is an important first step, and it is important to help educate donors about the potential options that are available for their legacy giving. Having a consistent revenue source can set up smaller organizations for long-term success and that is often a driving incentive for donors who seek to make a lasting impact.

I’ve seen these shared goals drive legacy planning and ultimately lead to the intended impact. It’s important for all parties involved to understand that no donation is too small, it’s never too early to start planning, and the process doesn’t need to be complicated to be effective.

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