Fundraising for Small Groups Newsletter

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November 21, 2018

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Planned Giving:
Four Reasons Why Small Nonprofits
Should Seek Bequests

by Jane Ford

During a fundraising committee meeting, a new member asked the question "How much money did we receive last year from bequests or other forms of planned giving?" This question generated a lively discussion because this small nonprofit had never received money from any form of planned giving.

Board members had talked about it but the general thinking was that planned giving was too complicated and costly for a small nonprofit to manage and so they never pursued it. If this is the stance of your nonprofit, share with them the following reasons why all nonprofits should do some sort of planned giving program beginning with simple bequests.

Nonprofits receive enormous sums of money from bequests.

In the United States in 2008, more than $22 billion was given to charity through bequests. This fact looks even more impressive when you compare it with the fact that only $14.5 billion that was given to charities from the corporate sector.

The opportunity to get bequests is nearly unlimited.

About 80% of people in the United States give annually to charities while less than 3% leave a bequest. Your nonprofit has an untapped potential in the form of your current annual or major donors from which to solicit bequests.

Recessions can be a good time to seek bequests.

In difficult economic times, many donors feel that they cannot give as much as they have in the past. A bequest offers them the opportunity to feel that they are still helping your nonprofit without hurting themselves in financially challenging times.

Creating a bequest program is simple.

Once your board approves the establishment of a bequest program, you can begin advertising this in your newsletter, on your web site, and in every promotional piece you produce. That is all you need to do until some one dies and you actually receive the money. Then, it is up to your nonprofit to ensure that the bequest is used according to the wishes of the donor. It may take years before your nonprofit actually receives its first bequest. However, since it takes so little time and effort to establish and support a bequest program, is there any reason why your board wouldn't establish one?

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About the Author:

Jane B. Ford, M.Ed. is a speaker, author, teacher, coach and consultant who guides individuals and nonprofits on the road to prosperity. She has worked with small to mid-sized nonprofits for three decades in the roles of executive director, trainer, fundraiser and management consultant. You can learn more about Jane at and

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