How to Manage Planned Gifts: 4 Best Practices for Nonprofits

As a nonprofit professional, you understand the value planned gifts bring to your organization. Planned gifts—when donors formally plan to donate at another time—are some of the largest donations you bring in, and they can set your nonprofit up for a sustainable future. The high return on investment you reap from planned gifts makes it especially worthwhile for your organization to pursue them actively, rather than treating them as a pleasant surprise.

Effectively managing planned gifts is critical for securing funding, but it can be a complicated process. In most cases, donors’ commitments to these gifts aren’t binding until your organization receives an official notice, commonly willed after a donor passes away. When you learn that a donor has arranged a planned gift, it’s essential to continue investing in the best possible donor journey for them.

To empower your nonprofit to create a solid strategy for this kind funding, we’ll walk through the following four best practices for managing planned gifts:

  1. Assemble a dedicated planned gifts team.
  2. Segment planned donors.
  3. Thank donors in multiple ways.
  4. Communicate your nonprofit’s impact.

For a complete guide to planned giving take a look at CharityEngine’s comprehensive content.

1. Assemble a dedicated planned gifts team.

Securing planned gifts is a team effort. Start by appointing or hiring a planned gifts officer for your organization to establish your planned giving program. This person should have several years of fundraising experience because they will need to fulfill various responsibilities, including:

  • Leveraging donor research and wealth screening tools to find planned giving candidates.
  • Reaching out to donors through various communication channels.
  • Holding meetings, answering questions, and sending follow-up messages to deepen the organization’s connection with potential donors.
  • Crafting individualized fundraising asks.
  • Following up with donors and keeping them engaged.
  • Using your nonprofit’s CRM software to track and analyze planned giving data.

As your organization grows, you can (and should!) expand your planned gifts team. This way, you can divide responsibilities among staff members with skills suited to different roles and make all processes related to planned giving run more smoothly.

2. Segment planned donors.

Donor segmentation helps your nonprofit engage individual supporters more effectively. While your planned donors are a distinct group within your organization’s larger supporter base, try segmenting them further based on their…

  • Demographics. Segmenting demographically, especially by age, helps your nonprofit choose the pertinent channels to communicate with planned donors. The best planned giving candidates are typically around age 40 or older, since these individuals are likely to have a will or are in the process of creating one. Donors on the younger end of this spectrum are often receptive to digital communications like emails and Facebook posts, while older donors may prefer direct mail solicitations or phone calls.
  • Wealth. Wealth-based segmentation allows you to prioritize your outreach efforts. The most crucial planned giving candidates have a moderate-to-large net worth and own assets like real estate or stocks that appreciate over time. Make sure to take both of these considerations into account when segmenting planned donors.
  • Engagement. Above all else, planned donors need to have a history of involvement with your organization and stay invested in your nonprofit’s mission. Examine their past contribution frequency, event attendance, and volunteer or advocacy work to personalize your communications with them and continue engaging them in ways that appeal to their interests.

To create these segments, start by leveraging your CRM data and supplement it with specialized prospecting and wealth screening tools. Then, add notes, such as tags, to each planned donor’s profile detailing which segments they belong to so your team has a reference as you reach out to and thank planned donors.

3. Thank donors in multiple ways.

It’s no secret that donors who feel that your nonprofit appreciates and values them tend to stay engaged long-term. Showing gratitude to planned donors is particularly important because their significant contributions depend entirely on a deep relationship with your organization.

This special situation requires that you develop a more involved donor appreciation strategy as part of your planned giving program. Take the time to thank each donor personally using several methods, such as:

  • Sending handwritten cards when they first arrange their donation and for the special occasions that follow, like on their birthdays and during the festive season.
  • Mentioning them in your annual report, along with your monthly newsletter if you have one.
  • Adding their name to a donor wall, plaque, or sign displayed at your organization.
  • Shouting them out on your organization’s social media accounts, which also helps spread the word about your planned giving program.

Every donor will likely prefer different appreciation methods. For public displays like a donor wall or social media post, get the supporter’s consent before sharing their name or photo. If they say no to a certain form of recognition—or let you know that they were especially thrilled with one—add a note to their donor profile in your CRM to make sure you continue to honor their preferences over time.

4. Communicate your nonprofit’s impact.

In addition to communicating about planned donors’ value to your nonprofit, you also need to let them know how you’re planning to further your mission in order to secure their continued support. After all, they want to know their contribution to your organization will always make a positive impact, even if they don’t give until many years from now.

Some tools your organization can use to communicate your impact to planned donors include:

  • Your annual report. This yearly, comprehensive overview of your organization’s work serves a dual purpose in planned giving. Besides thanking your donors in the report, it allows you to share concrete data on your projects and programs, which highlights the progress you’ve made toward your goals.
  • Additional impact reports based on their areas of interest. Planned gift revenue usually falls into the category of restricted funding, meaning that the donor has earmarked it for a specific purpose. If you know what program they want their donation to fund, send them an impact report covering your progress with that initiative. If you have a more general idea of some initiatives they might consider supporting, give them access to a few related reports.
  • Invitations to fundraising events or volunteer opportunities. Attending an event or volunteering at your organization allows planned donors to see your impact firsthand. Record information about their interests in your donor database and extend invitations accordingly.

Sharing these resources with planned donors allows your organization to create a compelling case for their support and ensure their plans to give will remain solid down the line.


The key to managing planned gifts is to develop a meticulous strategy for stewarding donors, which starts with creating a dedicated planned giving program. Then, you’ll acknowledge and communicate your impact to each segment of planned donors.

When you pursue planned gifts in this way, it becomes more likely that donors will follow through on their promise to give. As grateful recipients of planned gifts, your organization will secure major funding to support your programs and improve your financial sustainability.

Reach out to Phil to continue the conversation.