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I don’t know of many independent radio stations who have a planned giving program – the program that encourages people to leave money in their wills or set up a trust to benefit your organization. But they should! This is how the largest gifts you’ll ever receive are generated. This is how to build an endowment to secure your future.

It was necessary for me to initiate such a program with no knowledge of the law or tax implications for donors so I learned the hard way. It took me a year. By the end, I had generated a $300,000 unrestricted endowment. And I’m happy to share what I learned.

It will take 18 to 22 hours of your time over a one-year period and it is well worth it.

You do need some donors you can reach out to – and a volunteer willing to take on the task.

This outline looks simple perhaps but it takes thought, finding the right people, and being diligent in preparing the materials and following up. It’s well worth the effort. Once you have it set up, you can sit back and relax, really. The program is there, available if someone is interested, and you will see some amazing results.

Step One: (2-4 hours)

  1. Find a representative who will be able to talk with people about these types of gifts. These are usually found at a local community foundation. Meet with them and ask if they are willing to assist.
  2. Acquire a list of local “experts” such as estate planning attorneys, certified financial planners (CFPs), realtors and bankers.
  3. Do some research on what other organizations like yours are doing.
  4. Acquire some sample planned giving policies from organizations similar to yours. If you cannot find any from this source, ask the local hospital or university for a copy – you’ll be pleasantly surprised that many are willing to share such documents.
  5. Learn how other organizations form “legacy” societies and what activities they provide. Get samples of brochures.
  6. It will be ideal to either have a board member with planned giving experience or ask someone to join the board who has some expertise, such as an estate planning attorney or CFP. Ask them to assist you in developing this program.
  7. Find an organization that can “manage” your planned gifts and provide the security of financial backing to reassure prospects that their money will be used appropriately. This will most likely be the local community foundation (they can start a fund for you).

Step Two: (1- 2 hours)

  1. Present the concept to the board; prepare a written outline and ask for approximately 20 minutes of time. Invite the representative who will be speaking on your behalf in to assist and answer any questions.
  2. Ask for approval to proceed.
  3. Indicate that you will report back on results of forming Planned Giving Committee
  4. Provide an estimate of costs (these will be marketing costs).

Step Three: (4 hours)

  1. Form a Planned Giving Committee which serves ad hoc if necessary and meets two or three times during the year. Ask the Board member you recruited with expertise to head up this committee and invite others to join: estate planning attorneys, stock brokers, CFPs, insurance representatives (CLUs), bankers and realtors are a great place to research for potential candidates. Ultimately you will want at least three and no more than seven members.

First meeting: Review sample policies, discuss how the program will work and how to market the program. It is important that everyone understand that planned giving prospects will need to be referred to their own attorneys once they indicate an interest.

Second meeting: Finalize policies and discuss outreach (marketing) including letters to all the estate attorneys with your organization’s exact name as it appears in your Articles of Incorporation, brochures, lectures and the formation of an honorary society.

Third meeting: if necessary, hold a third meeting to close up any loose ends.

Step Four: (one hour)

Present everything at a board meeting and gain final approval.

Step Five: (8 hours) – Marketing

  1. Form an honorary, or “legacy” society. Create a brochure and distribute in appropriate locations (i.e., front desk, other locations where prospective clients might visit, churches, temples, university lobbies, community buildings, etc.)
  2. Plan at least one annual activity for this society as a visit to the organization for a breakfast or lunch to learn about what is happening in the sector and with your nonprofit organization.
  3. Prepare and mail a letter to estate planning attorneys with information about your organization’s name as it appears in your Articles of Incorporation.
  4. Promote on your internet website and in any e-newsletters or printed newsletters. Use samples gathered from other organizations to assist with the wording.
  5. Either on your business reply envelope, or a separate card, which is inserted with every mail appeal and thank you letter, mention that you are encouraging planned gifts.
  6. Consider seminars. If the local community foundation offers them, invite your prospects to go – they should RSVP to you – and be sure and attend with them! Or, have one of your “experts” from your Planned Giving Committee conduct and/or host one. These work sometimes well and sometimes not, so consider the time it takes to do this before committing to too many!
  7. When the calls come, invite the prospect to join you and the representative you have serving as your expert for lunch. Let the “expert” describe the details. At this point, they will need to have their attorney discuss this with the “expert” who probably isn’t a staff member if you’re a small shop. If they are at the local community foundation or bank, you will need to stay in close touch in order to monitor how the gift proceeds (after all, you do want this to ultimately be given to your organization!).

For future marketing consider asking donors to let you use their “story” either with their name or anonymously, to encourage others. Post on your website, e-newsletter and printed materials.


Guiamar F. Hiegert, CFRE, Faculty, “New Designs for Fundraising” , College of E-Learning, Humboldt State University and also a Board member and Chair of the Development & Marketing Committee for, 100.7 LP FM in Brookings Oregon

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