Starting Your Planned Giving Program in 3 Steps

star wars

Good things come in 3’s


3 steps? Could anything be easier?? No, not really.





Update your messaging to let donors know you’re open to receiving bequests.

  • On your direct mail reply device: Add a couple of checkboxes with these questions – Have you included our charity in your will? Would you like more information?
  • On your website’s donation page: “Please remember us in your will. Call Susy for more information.” (it’s also smart to list your full legal name, address and charitable number here)
  • In your newsletters: Include a testimonial or interview with any donors you know who have included your charity in their will.


Look for prospective bequest donors in your database and call them to build a relationship.

Typical planned giving donors often come from one or more of these donor groups.

  • Frequent givers, like monthly donors
  • Long-time donors, especially those who have been supporting your charity from the beginning
  • Older donors, especially those born in the 50’s or earlier

Wondering how to approach that call? I like to phone (or email) and ask them if I can interview them at some point. In the interview, I ask why they started giving to our charity, what other causes interest them, whether we are communicating with them in the right way, whether they might like to see our work first-hand, etc.

I also ask them if we might use their story in a publication sometime and let them know that I will follow up when and if the opportunity arises.


Track your actions and follow up! Tag prospective donors in your database so you can keep in touch. Invite them to your charity’s events, send them information during Leave a Legacy Month and try to identify the point where you might ask them “Would you ever consider including our charity in your will?”

Final Thoughts 

Are you wondering why I’m only talking about gifts in wills (bequests) instead of the many other types of planned gifts? Because it’s the one you’re most likely to get and worrying about other planned giving vehicles isn’t worth your time at this point.

Keep up with the three steps because repetition is your friend when it comes to planned giving. Creating or updating a will is something everyone knows they should do, but takes quite a bit of mulling over first.  Good luck!


About Siobhan Aspinall

About Siobhan Aspinall: I am a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), passionate about the environment, social causes and surfing. I have been fundraising in Vancouver, Canada for over 20 years and love working with people who have a fear of fundraising. Call me for help developing a first-time fundraising plan, starting up a major gifts program, writing a case for support, or anything else that's keeping you awake at night! Please find me on linkedin and tell me what you'd like to see in future posts! : ) Photo Credit (sanddollar header): Minette Layne via Compfight cc
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