Many people have approached us for advice about asking for gifts, including planned gifts, which may be particularly sensitive in these times. Below, senior consultant Greer Polansky answers the most commonly asked questions about planned giving and COVID.
1) Is it appropriate to continue planned giving discussions right now?
The short answer is yes, for many donors it is an appropriate time to talk about planned giving. One caveat, of course, is if a donor or their family member is unwell–whether due to the virus or other reasons– in which case, you should only be communicating with them about their health and well-being. However, for your age appropriate donors (in their 60s and 70s) it is very appropriate to have those conversations particularly if you were beginning to discuss planned giving options before the pandemic’s onset. Because planned gifts do not require current dollars, now is the ideal time to circle back.
And don’t forget – be sure to reach out to those who have already made legacy gifts to your organization to check in on how they are doing.
2) How can we sensitively encourage our donors to consider planned giving?
During this time, it is best to customize this encourage by engaging with donors individually, rather than mass appeals or communications about planned giving. In particular, if you happen to be at an organization that is currently in a campaign, do you have donors who are age-appropriate who could add to their cash gift and make a planned gift? Or, if they have a pending gift, maybe they want to make all or part of it a planned gift to make it less financially stressful.
If you already have planned giving language in your existing communications (website, newsletters, etc.) that is fine, but you don’t want to send the message that a pandemic is an impetus to begin to consider planned giving. Instead, be willing to explore it with donors who you already know and consider it an option to open the conversation about their current or intended contributions.
3) What are donors’ biggest concerns about making a planned gift right now?
Donors in their 50s and early 60s who are just beginning to consider a planned gift may be concerned about the market — don’t push the conversation. In this scenario, time is our friend. Let time pass for a potential market recovery and then re-engage the conversation. If you have a donor who has already committed a planned gift and is concerned because the market dropped and the value of their portfolio is down, reassure the donor that whatever the gift is, it is appreciated, but be open to letting some time pass if it makes sense for your organization. Unless the donor is well into their 80s, a market recovery is highly likely and their gift may be able to have its intended impact after some time. For others, the waiver of 2020 Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) for certain retirement plans and IRAs may be reassuring. Donors may also consider other options including bequests, beneficiary designations, or charitably gift annuities.
When it comes to planned giving, it is important to continue to have these conversations with your donors. Treat each prospect on a case-by-case basis and recognize that in some cases, it may make sense to wait, while in other cases a planned gift may be just the answer right now.