Planned Giving Coach

Getting Started: An Overview

To start an effective planned giving program, you need to develop a persuasive case statement, win board support, and help your organization’s planned givers present the case to others.

Unfortunately, a strong case, board leadership, and personal presentations are often missing from planned giving programs. Their absence leaves the program and its staff adrift in a sea of planned giving brochures that tout the benefits of charitable trusts or gift annuities, but often do little to persuade donors why the organization deserves to be in their estate plans.

Planned giving programs should be case-centered, not technique-centered. Case-centered planned giving treats planned giving prospects with respect, gets planned gift commitments quickly, and begins in familiar territory. You also need to know something about the technical side of planned giving. But don’t start with planned giving techniques. First, define your organization’s case. Tell your donors why you need planned gifts, what you intend to do with them, and what percentage of your organization’s budget you hope will come from planned giving.

To get your case-centered planned giving program started, review the following sections below:

Get as far as you can on your own. If you get stuck, hire the Coach.

Your Case

Starting with your planned giving committee or its equivalent, draft a Case Statement for Planned Giving. The case should concisely explain why your organization needs and deserves planned gifts, how much it's looking for, and how it plans to use the gifts once received. Do not skip this process. It’s fundamental to building an effective planned giving program and getting board participation.

As soon as your supervisor, board members, or planned giving volunteers see the draft of the case statement they will think: “Planned giving brochure!” Help them understand that the case statement, however helpful in developing a brochure for wide distribution, is above all a fund-raising tool to get planned gift commitments right now and from them. Click here to download the brochure.

Download the PDF “Writing Your Case” to see what a case statement draft might look like. Use it as a model to fashion your own case statement.

Download the PDF “Using Your Case” for tips on how developing a case statement can get planned gift commitments from your board.

If you need help writing your case or moving it through committees, hire the Coach.

Your Planned Giving Committee

Traditionally, nonprofit organizations reflexively recruit estate planning attorneys, CPAs, trust officers, and financial planners to the organization’s planned giving committee. This is not the approach that Planned Giving Coach encourages. A group of estate and financial planning experts is valuable as a technical advisory committee which you call together occasionally for a luncheon discussion of the planned giving program, cultivate as advocates of planned gifts to your organization, and call on from time-to-time when you have technical questions in their field.

The planned giving committee’s job is primarily fundraising, not tech support. If members have technical expertise, so much the better, but commitment to your organization is far more important. Their primary responsibility, along with monitoring the planned giving program, is to ask people for planned gifts in one-to-one or small group settings. To be effective, they need to be passionate about your organization and able to explain the case: why your organization needs and deserves planned gifts. They need to have made their own planned gift commitment, and they need to know how planned giving prospects can get information from your organization on planned giving methods.

It is crucial that you tell your planned giving committee members before they join that planned giving is not a spectator sport. Inform them up-front that committee membership requires them (1) to make their own planned gift commitment and (2) to ask for planned gift commitments from others. Only in this way they will learn first-hand what they will be asking others to do and be at ease doing so.

Click on “Your Committee” for a planned giving committee job description. Use it to develop a job description that fits your organization.

Your Committee

Gift Definitions

Board members and volunteers often ask for a simple summary of planned giving vehicles as they begin a planned giving program. Find below two attempts to do so. One, The Ten Top Ways for Board Members to Make a Planned Gift, (click on “Top Ten Ways”) presents a succinct introduction to planned giving techniques and is meant to show your board how easy it is for most of them to make their own commitment. The other A Guide to Planned Giving Terms (click on “Gift Definitions”) goes into planned giving tools in a more detailed but not overly technical way. But be cautioned. Planned giving vehicles should not be over-simplified. Always have donors seek independent qualified counsel before making a final decision. If your prospects ask for more detailed information, draw on your planned giving technical advisory committee if you have one, or hire the Coach or another planned giving consultant.

Top Ten Ways
Gift Definitions

Policies and Procedures

Formal planned giving policies and procedures establish clear boundaries that protect the integrity of the program and the welfare of your donors. Drafting, reviewing and approving those policies and procedures give you, your volunteers and your board a brief crash course in planned giving fundamentals.

No one set of policies and procedures fits all. What most nonprofit organizations do is review the policies and procedures others have developed and adapt the text to their circumstances. They then have the draft of their policies and procedures reviewed by legal counsel. If you want to take that approach, review the two sets of policies below, one more extensive than the other, and adapt whatever you find helpful to your circumstances.

Policies (Short)
Policies (Long)

Number Crunching

You have several choices when a planned giving prospect wants to know what her tax deduction and projected income would be from a charitable remainder trust or gift annuity:

    1. Refer her immediately to her own counsel;
    2. Get the data from her and turn it over to a volunteer with technical expertise; Click on “Information form crts” for guidance on what you’ll need from the prospect.
    3. Buy and learn a good planned giving software program;
    4. Hire the Coach or another planned giving consultant to do the numbers.

Information form crts


The Partnership for Philanthropic Planning (, formerly the National Committee on Planned Giving, developed a succinct set of standards of behavior for those working in the planned giving field. Like the Ten Commandments, the standards were developed not to make sure the field would stay unsullied but to respond to abuses.

Download the PPP set of standards below and discuss them with your planned giving committee at an early meeting. Following the standards will keep you and your planned giving program out of trouble.

Standards of Practice

Other Basics

The Partnership for Philanthropic Planning, formerly the National Committee on Planned Giving, was founded in 1988 and is now the leading association for gift planning professionals. Visit their website, to find your local chapter, to order their Guide to Starting a Planned Giving Program, to order videos of presentations made at their national conference, or to register for their next national conference.