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Charitable-gift planning emerges

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By Tanya Howe Johnson

The one constant in planned giving is change.

And the changes of the past few years have prompted a new look at the very definition of planned giving.

For years, the experts all had their favorite definitions, reflecting a mélange of fundraising and financial, philanthropic and family planning.

Depending on who you talked to, planned giving consisted of complicated tools that only the most experienced fundraisers and advisors could use or understand, or something just for older, wealthy donors, or an alternative to other types of giving that savvy donors and clients could use to increase income and reduce taxes.

And laced throughout every debate was planned giving’s chicken-or-egg question: Which is more important — fundraising skill or technical expertise?

As it is increasingly understood to be not just a set of tools and techniques, but rather a process of facilitating charitable gifts, “planned giving” has evolved into “charitable-gift planning.”

Charitable-gift planning offers options for meeting the needs of donors and clients, and enhances the fundraising potential of charitable organizations.

And so, as we collectively considered what planned gifts really are and what they need to be, the National Committee on Planned Giving put that vision into a definition of charitable gift planning:

Charitable-gift planning is the process of cultivating, designing, facilitating, and stewarding gifts to charitable organizations.

Charitable-gift planning:

* Uses a variety of financial tools and techniques for giving

* Requires the assistance of one or more qualified specialists

* Utilizes tax incentives that encourage charitable giving, when appropriate

* Covers the full spectrum of generosity by individuals and institutions, and is based on powerful traditions of giving in the United States.

The techniques of charitable-gift planning include both revocable and irrevocable arrangements, gifts available for use at the time they are given, gifts that may not be available until a future date, and split-interest gifts intended to balance financial, personal and charitable objectives.

With this definition, we place charitable gift planning in the context of an organization’s total resource development, and a donor’s total philanthropic development.


Tanya Howe Johnson is president and CEO of the National Committee on Planned Giving in Indianapolis.

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