A planned giving program is the top of the
park giving pyramid
and should be considered as part of an
overall fundraising strategy. The first step in creating a planned giving program is
determining the level of planned giving activity appropriate for your friends group.
Factors to consider include the institutional readiness of the organization, gift options,
marketing the program and how to identify and cultivate giving prospects. It is easy to
start by planting the option of naming the park in people's wills, with additional layers
added to the program over time.
Not all friends groups are ready to initiate an all-inclusive planned giving program,
particularly those in the early stages of development that lack resources and personnel.
But regardless of a group's constraints, there are a number of ways to launch a planned
giving program that can be enhanced over time. Organizational plans should be in place
before your group develops a planned giving program. Questions to consider include:
- Is there a strategic plan in place that outlines goals and objectives for the next
three to ten years?
- Is the mission statement clear and does it truly reflect the friends group? (Clearly
defined mission and case statements increase the chances for a successful planned
- Is there a case statement that concisely describes the role of the friends group, its
mission, and how it proposes to accomplish it?
- What awareness does your friends group have for planting the idea of making a
planned gift with park users and the public at large?
In addition to valuing parks, potential donors must feel confident that the park's partner is
secure and will still exist when the benefits of their gift becomes available. Prior to
donating a planned gift, donors will want to know how long the friends group has been in
existence and if it is growing. National parks and the National Park Service have the
permanence advantage of approaching a 2016 Centennial and managing parks in
Potential donors may be concerned with your organization's financial stability and its
ability to cover operating expenses. Does the organization have a history of balancing its
budget? Does it have the financial expertise to properly invest the gift? Your
organization must be prepared to provide financial reports and information concerning
your overall financial performance and in some cases the performance of specific funds.
By looking at these areas, donors may determine if your friends group will be a good
steward for their gift and be able to adhere to the donor's wishes of how the gift will be
Organizations with successful programs employ knowledgeable development staff or
retained consultants who can articulate the organization's mission and programs, as well
as a liaison who can clearly explain to donors and other interested parties planned giving
options. Ultimately the planned gift instrument is prepared by the donor and his or her
advisor. Other more established nonprofit organizations such as local Community
Foundations can serve as advisors and bankers for planned gifts that benefit parks.
Board of Directors
It is important for the board of directors to realize that their friends group may not
experience immediate results - planned gifts take time to cultivate and can take six
months or years to negotiate. The progress of a planned giving program is based more on
the contacts made and the relationships built than completed arrangements or dollars
donated. Keep the board informed and share with them progress, interested donor leads,
and success stories in the planned giving area.
The friends group board is ultimately responsible for their planned giving program.
Therefore, it's important they understand the role planned giving plays in the growth and
long-term stability of the park and friends group, and the benefits planned giving
provides to the park and donors. The Friends' executive director and park Superintendent
can brief the board with a presentation on planned giving options and how planned giving
would be used to complement your friends group's existing development efforts. The
board should be fully supportive of the program, be willing to assist the development
department with the planned giving program and approve certain types of gifts (such as
gifts of life insurance, real estate, securities, gifts-in-kind, etc.) The board will also need
to approve budget allocations, the creation of a professional advisory committee, and
assist in marketing the planned giving program. It's wise to have the board formally
endorse a resolution to develop a planned giving program.
A friends group offers flexibility and can deposit and manage gifts in interest-bearing
accounts, whereas the National Park Service is restricted from depositing and managing
gifts in interest-bearing accounts.
A planned giving program begins with commitments from each board member, an act
that will demonstrate to your constituency the importance of these gifts. It's best to
solicit board members individually rather than making a broad appeal to the entire board.
They must also be willing to provide financial resources to initiate and maintain the
planned giving program. An effective program is based on developing long-term personal
relationships with donors, which most likely require hiring a development professional. It
may not be necessary to print new materials promoting planned giving opportunities
initially if planned giving messages can be incorporated into existing publications or on
park and park partner websites.
An advisory committee is responsible for establishing policies and procedures, making
periodic (quarterly or semi-annual) reports to the board, and interpreting the planned
giving program to members of the organization.
The advisory committee helps identify, analyze and meet prospects, assists with prospect
identification and analysis and coordinates program development and promotion with the
planned giving officer. Members may also make solicitation calls with a senior volunteer
and/or staff person. The most effective advisory committees include professional
advisors such as lawyers, accountants, insurance agents, tax, financial or estate planners,
stock brokers, realtors, etc.
Planned Giving/Development Officer
Your friends group should identify a staff person who will be responsible on a full- or
part-time basis for overseeing the planned giving program. An effective development
officer will spend at least 25% to 30% of their time on planned giving, although 100% is
Gifts to parks may be unrestricted or earmarked for a special campaign, park program or
initiative. A planned giving officer will provide general information on the planned
giving program, identify and cultivate prospects, suggest the feasibility of giving options
and be able to close gifts. They will also be responsible for ensuring that proper
arrangements for the gift are made while continuing to maintain the donor's confidence
A planned giving/development officer's involvement will also require time to develop
planned giving policies and procedures, market the planned giving program, and travel.
A good planned giving officer should posses a deep interest in promoting the park or
friends group; knowledge of the park and park long term needs; strong interpersonal
skills and an understanding personality; superior communication skills and sales ability.
The ability to write and speak effectively and empathetically; to be persuasive without
being aggressive; and to work well with potential donors, boards and other volunteer
groups are all essential ingredients. Additional key elements include an appearance that
engenders confidence; a personality that demonstrates initiative and maturity; patience;
and a basic knowledge of the tax system.
However, many nonprofit organizations are unable to hire a full-time planned giving
officer because of limited funding. In these situations, responses to planned giving
inquiries can be handled either by a development officer whose responsibility is to raise
money, or by a pro bono consultant or friend of the organization who has experience in
charitable estate planning and related areas.
Often, a park superintendent is approached by a potential donor who would like to make
a gift to the park. The Superintendent can identify who in their friends group they should
be talking to, refer the potential donor to estate planning professionals and provide
sample codicils for their wills.
The park Superintendent can also assist in the effort by cultivating donors and
communicating park needs and opportunities, the enduring nature of the park. They can
act as an "encourager", conveying what the donor can do, and the difference the donor
and their gift can make to the park.
Actual negotiation of the gift is generally the responsibility of a CPA. Friends groups
may be able to rely on friends of their organization who are attorneys, certified public
accountants, certified financial planners, bank trust officers, certified life underwriters, or
stock brokers to handle planned giving opportunities. However, they should not be relied
on to develop the personal relationships with donors that are so crucial to the success of a
planned giving program. They are best suited for drafting planned giving tools,
accompanying the development professional on donor visits, and assisting in developing
planned giving policies and procedures.
Planned Giving Policies and Guidelines
Well-defined policies and guidelines are crucial to the operation of a planned giving
program and should be in place prior to initiating your program. Policies define the
authority of the planned giving staff and the parameters in which they operate.
Guidelines address rules governing conflicts of interest, use of legal counsel, avoidance
of pressure techniques, confidentiality, authorizations, limitations and appraisals.
In developing policies and guidelines, consideration should be given to routine or
anticipated issues that could potentially undermine the viability of the program and/or
your friends group. Keep in mind that the objective of policies and guidelines are to
encourage, rather than discourage, planned gift giving. The development staff is
responsible for developing the policies and guidelines with the administration and board
providing final approval.
In Achieving Excellence in Fundraising (2003), Hank Rosso identifies questions an
organization should address when developing policies and guidelines. They are:
- Will the organization offer charitable gift annuities to its donors?
- Will the organization serve as trustee of charitable remainder trusts and charitable
lead trusts? If not, is it the donor's responsibility to secure a trustee?
- Will the organization administer charitable trusts or charitable gift annuities? If
not, who will serve as the third-party administrator?
- What minimum amounts and other limitations should be established for each of
the planned giving instruments? What is the minimum gift amount the
organization is willing to accept for a charitable gift annuity? What is the
minimum gift amount the organization is willing to accept for it to serve as the
trustee of a charitable remainder trust? Are there minimum age requirements the
donor must meet before the organization will enter into a charitable gift annuity
contract? Are there maximum payout percentages the organization is willing to
offer for charitable gift annuities and charitable remainder trusts?
- Who in the organization has the authority to accept gifts of appreciated property,
particularly real estate and closely held stock? Is board approval required before
such assets are accepted?
- Who in the organization is authorized to negotiate the terms of a planned giving
instrument, such as a charitable gift annuity or charitable remainder trust, with a
donor? Is board approval required before the document may be executed?
- Who in the organization has the authority to sign the planned giving document on
behalf of the organization?
Rosso also outlines points to consider when establishing guidelines, such as:
- Percent payout rate on charitable remainder trusts. The percent payout rate on
charitable remainder trusts must be at least 5% but should generally not exceed
- Minimum age requirements and funding levels for charitable remainder trusts. If
the organization is willing to serve as trustee, the minimum age of an income
beneficiary should be fifty-five. The minimum funding level should be $50,000.
- Percent payout on charitable gift annuities. It should be the organization's general
practice to use the gift annuity rates established by the American Council on Gift
- Minimum age requirements and funding levels for charitable gift annuities. The
organization should not offer charitable gift annuity contracts to donors under age
fifty-five. The minimum funding level should be $10,000.
- Trustee. Most organizations should not serve as trustee of charitable remainder
trusts and charitable gift annuities. In such instances, the donor is responsible for
selecting a trustee.
- Real estate. All proposed gifts of real estate must receive NPS and board approval
- Donor-centered philanthropy. All arrangements entered into with donors should
always have the donor's best interests in mind, provided the terms of the
arrangement do not violate the organization's policies and guidelines.
- Legal counsel. Donors should be advised to consult with their legal counsel
before entering into any legal arrangements with the NPS or a friends group.
- Confidentiality. All information about a donor or named income beneficiaries,
including names, ages, gift amounts, and net worth should be kept strictly
confidential by the organization unless permission is obtained from the donor to
release such information.
An information system should be established when initiating a planned giving program
and include several ways to code prospects and donors. Information such as contact
priority, capacity to give, stage in the process of closing the gift, age, and prospect or
donor's interests should be included. The staff member or volunteer assigned to track
and input the information, and next contact date will also need to be incorporated into a
database. Information can be segregated into confirmed and potential gifts.
A reporting mechanism that monitors the progress of the program and the staff's work
should be developed. This information will be used when regularly reporting planned
giving activities to the board. The board and CEO will be evaluating the tracking of
actual realized planned gift monies and demonstrating progress with expectancies.
Most operating budgets are already stretched to the limit with many organizations
unwilling or unable to fund additional support staff. Therefore, obtaining approval for a
first year's operating budget requires a well thought out strategic presentation.
Establishing and sustaining an effective planned giving program requires cultivating
donors, salaries, benefits, office supplies and expenses, printing, postage,
software/upgrades and equipment, audio visuals and photographs - items that should be
included as part of the budget. Travel expenses, promotions, volunteer training,
recognition and related costs should also be included along with marketing costs, dues
and subscriptions, conferences and professional development, consultants, and
Action or Business Plan
An action plan outlined your goals and the necessary steps to achieve those goals.
Typically it includes:
- the identification of a donor base;
- the goals, objectives and tactics of the planned giving program;
- a listing of the number of gifts and the size of gifts required to reach the goals;
- a listing of the number of prospects that must be cultivated to produce the goals;
- a marketing plan detailing the various activities that will be undertaken to obtain
the needed prospects. It is good idea to set reasonable goals.
Have a clear idea of who your constituency is - look at age, family situation, past giving
record and financial ability. Don't overlook those who have not identified themselves but
have named your park or friends group in their will or are thinking about naming one of
them in their will. Therefore, it is important that a planned giving donor database is as
inclusive as possible.
Develop a market strategy for planned gifts. An underlying strategy of the marketing plan
is the undertaking of a number of activities to get potential donors and/or prospects to
self-identify. It is much easier to contact individuals who have already indicated that they
are interested or prepared to arrange a planned gift to your organization. Accordingly, it
is very important that each activity has a means to elicit a response.
A typical marketing plan will include the purchase or production of comprehensive
promotional materials; marketing through direct mail; marketing through a newsletter;
wills clinics and estate planning seminars; information luncheons; marketing through
existing programs and through professional advisors; as well as an educational program.
Marketing a Planned Giving Program