Endowment Funding through Bequests

Churches frequently ask me: “What’s the best way to increase our endowment funds?”

Smart leaders know that an endowment can help the mission of their congregation. Once we do the hard work of establishing the Endowment – creating the Endowment Policy, opening the fund accounts, and establishing the invesment and disbursement strategies – then the hard work of funding begins.

Cash gifts to an endowment during a donor’s lifetime are very rare.

Some gifts of this type will occur. Especially in the startup phase of an endowment, a mini-campaign can be used to get the fund up and running. After that, the strategy will change.

Most people who give a gift during their lifetime want to see that gift used. This follows the first rule of fundraising – people give to mission that changes lives. They don’t want to reserve their gifts for the future.

I am hearing more and more donors be very explicit about this. “I want to give my money away while I’m alive so I can see it in action.”

Bequests are the best way to raise endowment funds.

Most endowment gifts that I have seen are bequests. Church members very thoughtfully include the church in their wills. The gift may be specified as an endowment gift, or the church may direct the gift to the endowment.

People will often leave a percentage of their estate to their favorite charities, including their church. With the average bequest in the U.S. topping $34,000 in 2014, this could mean a significant boost to an endowment fund.

But how do you encourage people to include the church in their will?

They are more likely to include another favorite charity other than the church. Why? Because another charity has asked. The church hasn’t.

Asking is as easy as 1, 2, 3. See my recent posts.

Legacy giving and bequests can be a perfect way for church members to provide for future ministries of their beloved church. Of course, we must always ask appropriately. But don’t be afraid to ask.