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Identifying Planned Giving Prospects in Your Current Donor Pool

Planned giving, the act by which a donor creates a financial or estate plan to make a charitable contribution at a future date, can be an excellent supplement to your annual fundraising efforts. Planned gifts can include bequests in wills, life insurance policies, retirement assets, charitable gift annuities, trusts, real estate, and stock. And these are just the most common planned giving vehicles; others exist as well.

Since payments on planned gifts are deferred until a later date, planned giving is not constrained by an individual’s current income and net worth. Donors can make a major commitment to an organization, sometimes even in perpetuity, beyond their immediate means. It can be a wonderful source of untapped revenue for your nonprofit organization, creating a pipeline of future gifts.

Many organizations do not have a robust planned giving program, and even fewer have dedicated staff solely focused in this area. Fortunately, there are strategies to identify prospective planned givers in your current donor pool, no matter your current resources.

Every nonprofit, large or small, contains potential planned givers. You just need to know where to look. Below are seven tips for identifying your next crop of planned giving donors.

Seven tips for identifying your next crop of planned giving donors

1. Identify Repeat Donors

Individuals who consistently make an annual gift to an organization are prime prospects for a planned gift. These donors are often passionate about an institution’s mission and feel a strong connection to an organization. Even if their yearly contributions are small, repeat donors may have the capacity to make a larger contribution down the line in a deferred format.

How to approach: You can create an annual planned giving publication that includes planned gift donor stories and information on the various planned giving vehicles. Repeat donors are excellent constituents to receive this mailing.

2. Recognize Major Givers

Major gift donors are often great candidates for a planned gift. They generally have the capacity, as well as the personal inclination, to support an organization in a monumental manner. A planned gift can be an excellent vehicle for these major donors to cement their legacy and impact.

How to approach: Major gift donors are also great constituents to receive an annual planned giving publication. They can also be good candidates to receive an appeal letter specific to planned giving.

3. Prioritize Donors Over 60

One of the most common planned giving vehicles is a bequest in a will. Thus, older donors, who tend to be reaching retirement age and finalizing their estate plans, are excellent prospects for a planned gift. Choose a threshold, such as age 60, and scan your donor pool for prospects in this age range. These individuals may be thinking about the final chapter of their lives and could be interested in making a contribution through their estate.

How to approach: Like with repeat donors and major givers, an annual planned giving publication can be an effective marketing strategy for older donors.

4. Determine Frequent Volunteers

Oftentimes, an individual does not have the financial means to make a major contribution to an institution, even if they care deeply about the organization and its mission. Look for donors who are frequent contributors in non-financial ways. One example could be an individual who has made a few small gifts but volunteers every week. These donors may not be able to make a major gift to your organization at the present moment but may be open to a planned gift where they could defer payment to a later date.

How to approach: You can create a legacy society for individuals who make a planned gift, planning special events for this group and listing the members in various development publications.  This will help put planned giving at the forefront for donors who are highly involved with your organization, such as frequent volunteers.

5. Look for Donors Who Can Take Advantage of Tax Benefits

Different planned giving vehicles have different tax advantages. You should try to identify donors who are eligible for these tax benefits. One example is individuals 72 and older with an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). The IRA Charitable Rollover provision, which was passed by Congress in 2015, allows these individuals to distribute $100,000 per year from their IRA to certain nonprofit organizations without counting this amount as income on their taxes.

How to approach: You can produce a small card that gives information on the IRA Charitable Rollover provision. This card can be included with your annual appeal letters for donors over 70.

6. Identify Donors without Children

Donors without children can be excellent planned giving prospects. Since they do not have any immediate heirs, they are often more open to leaving a large portion of their estate to charity.  A donor who has been highly involved with your organization, and does not have a large family, could be an excellent prospect for a planned gift.

How to approach: You can solicit donors without children through a planned giving appeal letter. The language of the appeal letter can focus on the lasting legacy of a planned gift, which can be an important aspect of philanthropy for individuals without a family.

7. Find Devoted Staff Members

Sometimes longtime staff members will make a planned gift to an organization where they spent their career. If a current staff member makes occasional contributions to your organization, they may be interested in supporting your institution in a larger, more impactful manner. One example could be a longtime administrator who leaves a bequest to an institution in their will. These individuals often feel a strong personal connection to the organization where they spent their life’s work and want to ensure its success long after they are gone.

How to approach: Longtime staff members are generally already aware of planned giving. You can include select retired staff members, who you think may be interested in making a planned gift, as constituents to receive an annual planned giving publication.


Planned giving can be an excellent tool to procure major, transformative gifts. Every organization contains potential planned givers in their donor database. By following these strategies, your organization is sure to identify some prospective planned givers already in your orbit. With the proper cultivation, you can create a lasting pipeline of support for years to come.