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How 3 Charities Are Pursuing Planned Gifts

How 3 Charities Are Pursuing Planned Gifts 1

For most nonprofits, receiving a bequest can seem like winning the lottery: a big payday for doing absolutely nothing. The most common scenario is when a longtime supporter, typically someone who has given small amounts steadily, leaves a significant gift in his or her will, often unexpectedly.

But winning the lottery isn’t a sustainable plan for building revenue. There’s loads of potential for cultivating donors who want to tie their personal legacy to your organization. Nearly $9 trillion in assets is projected to flow from Americans’ estates by 2027, according to data analysis released last April by Locus Impact Investing and the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship (which is now called e2 Entrepreneurial Ecosystems). Even a sliver of that — say, $441 billion, or roughly 5 percent — could prove a boon if captured for charities.

With the eldest baby boomers edging into their mid-70s, the time is right for lots of conversations about philanthropic legacy, experts say. “We’re about six years out from realizing the beginning of the baby-boom curve,” says Robert Sharpe, a planned-giving consultant in Memphis.

Carving out staff resources to go after those gifts can be tough, given the need to hit annual-budget goals and the ways in which fundraisers’ performance is usually judged — on short-term gains rather than on patient cultivation.

“Bandwidth is short. It takes courage to say, With all the stuff we’re doing, we’re going to carve out a new, major effort,” acknowledges Don Macke, vice president of e2 Entrepreneurial Ecosystems.

And yet some charities find ways to make room to pursue planned gifts. Here are three groups that are doing it.

— Heather Joslyn

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to e2 Environmental Ecosystems instead of e2 Entrepreneurial Ecosystems.

A version of this article appeared in the March 5, 2019 issue.