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Planned-giving advice for faith-based groups

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Chris McLeod

Chris McLeod

Todd  Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Planned giving, which typically includes gifts that are deferred or involve assets other than cash such as stock or real estate, represents an underappreciated and underused fundraising strategy for charities.

That is the view of a group of Charlotte fundraising professionals who have launched an effort to help religious congregations put planned giving to more productive use.

“You’re missing the opportunity to ask the donor for what often could be the largest gift they make in their lifetime,” says Chris McLeod, vice president of The Greater Charlotte Cultural Trust at Foundation for the Carolinas and chair of Leave A Legacy Charlotte Region, an initiative of the National Committee on Planned Giving that works to promote planned giving.

Last spring, Leave A Legacy hosted a planned-giving workshop for the faith community that attracted over 65 people from 23 churches and two synagogues.

Now, the group is planning a workshop for African-American congregations, and has launched a series of six planned-giving “coaching circles.”

Research on planned giving suggests charities have a lot of room to increase bequest giving:

  • Over 80 percent of individuals give during their lifetime but only five percent die leaving a bequest.
  • Seventy percent of people making planned gifts say they did so because they were asked.
  • Bequests totaled nearly $22.7 billion in 2008, accounting for only seven percent of total charitable giving.

McLeod says planned giving represents a key strategy charities can use to increase the flow of revenue over time and generate what often are their largest gifts.

Yet charities typically worry their planned-giving programs are not working, she says, because it can take years, even decades, until a donor dies after making a gift, yet two in three planned-gift donors do not tell charities about the gifts before they die.

The workshop, to be held Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at University Park Baptist Church on Beatties Ford Road, will feature:

  • Dale Allison, administrator for Myers Park Presbyterian Church, which received planned gifts in its $30 million campaign.
  • Renee Peeler Jackson, director of a campaign at University Park Baptist Church that raised $3 million in two years.
  • Judy Smith, director of planned giving for the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, which helped parishes launch programs resulting in over $5 million in planned gifts for their endowments.
  • Peggy Ward, a member of the trustee council at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, which has focused on planned gifts involving insurance.

The coaching circles, which began in September and continue through April, will examine how congregations can begin a planned-giving program, including how to engage their leadership; recognize bequest donors; promote planned giving to members; communicate the impact of planned gifts; and ask for planned gifts.

“Our goal,” says McLeod, “is to help churches and synagogues launch a bequest program, problem-solve and provide ongoing support and opportunities for volunteers to meet, ask questions from planned-giving experts and learn from one another.”

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