Do Not Overlook This Gift Opportunity

Many charities have been overlooking an increasingly important potential source of charitable contributions. Many donors have also overlooked this potential philanthropic opportunity.

It’s time to change all of that.

I’m talking about Beneficiary Designations.

While the use of Wills has declined sharply since 1998, individuals are increasingly using Beneficiary Designations to pass on assets to loved ones. Instead of a Will, individuals can use a simple Beneficiary Designation form to distribute assets from IRAs, 401ks, bank accounts, certificates of deposit, brokerage accounts, life insurance policies, and money remaining in Donor Advised Funds. In some jurisdictions, individuals can also use Beneficiary Designations to distribute property such as automobiles and real estate.

If someone does not have a Will, he cannot make a Charitable Bequest commitment. However, he can easily set up a Beneficiary Designation that directs some of his assets to a favorite charity. It’s important to note here that a Beneficiary Designation supersedes any designations made in a Will should a donor have both.

For donors, using a Beneficiary Designation can be easier and less expensive than making a Charitable Bequest commitment through a Will. Beneficiary Designations do not require a lawyer, a complicated estate planning process, or an executor. Donors can use Beneficiary Designations to take care of loved ones and/or their favorite charities. Donors can designate all or a portion of a given asset to specific beneficiaries. Beneficiary Designations also provide flexibility as individuals can easily change beneficiaries at any time.

I Spy by Flood G via FlickrTo acquire more gifts through Beneficiary Designations, nonprofit organizations need to be proactive about promoting this method of giving. As with any other planned gift vehicle, organizations need to educate prospective donors about the opportunity and how it works. Then, fundraising professionals actually need to ask for the gifts.

One way the ASPCA promoted Beneficiary Designation gifts was through an article on its website that you can read by clicking here.

The University of Florida has promoted Charitable Bequests and Beneficiary Designations using a two-page information sheet that explains the options. You can find it by clicking here.

The San Diego Zoo also promotes Beneficiary Designations. You can go to the Zoo’s Beneficiary Designation web page by clicking here.

To see how The Humane Society of the United States promotes Beneficiary Designations on its website, click here.

The Central Park Conservancy also promotes Beneficiary Designations on its website, which you can discover by clicking here.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation — Western Hemisphere Region educates people about the Beneficiary Designation opportunity. You can read their web page by clicking here.

The key to successfully getting Beneficiary Designation gifts is to promote them and ask for them as you would any other type of planned gift.

In addition to educating the prospective planned gift donors about Beneficiary Designations, some charities are also implementing campaigns to proactively appeal for such gift commitments. In a future post, I’ll share at least one case study.

To learn more about how to educate, cultivate, and ask for planned gift support, checkout my book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, winner of the prestigious AFP/Skystone Prize for Research in Fundraising and Philanthropy. The book is also on the official CFRE International Resource Reading List.

Do you promote and ask for Beneficiary Designation gift commitments? How do you do it? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

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