Legacy Giving Made Easy for Your Church

Planned giving* is easier than you might think. Last week, I asked What Are You Waiting For? If you’re ready to start, here are some basic tips and tricks.

Charitable bequests are the simplest way for someone to support their congregation beyond their lifetime. It is estimated that 85 to 90% of legacy gifts come through a simple bequest. Your plan should emphasize wills and bequests. 

Even though bequests are easy, there are still many choices to make. Will the gift be a certain dollar amount, a percentage of an estate, a specific property or asset, or the residual of the estate? Will the gift be restricted or unrestricted? Should the gift proceeds be used immediately or permanently endowed? Your plan should provide education about these choices. 

A majority (55%) of American adults do not have a will. Appropriate times to write or re-write a will are significant life events, such as: Financial independence from one’s parents, Marriage or Re-marriage, Childbirth, Empty Nest or Onset of Terminal illness. Your plan should include a wills emphasis for all adult age groups.

Churches with endowment committees often include promotion of the endowment in the committee’s charter. However, in practice, endowment committees spend most of their time considering the management of the endowed funds. The returns of a well-run Legacy Giving promotional initiative can be much higher than market returns. Whether it’s the endowment committee or another group, your plan should task a creative, responsible group to promote additional legacy gifts. 

Finally, keep in mind that Legacy Giving lays the foundation for work that will happen 10 to 15 to 25 years from now. While there isn’t usually an immediate, tangible gift today, those who come after you will be grateful for the seeds you are planting now.


*Planned Giving or Legacy Giving? The idea of leaving a legacy is more personally compelling to me than planning a gift. However, “your mileage may vary.” Find a way to ask your best prospects what is more inspiring and understandable.