Planned giving: Providing an option

By Todd Cohen and Ret Boney

During difficult economic times, when giving from income may not be as easy as it once was, estate gifts can be a good option.

To capitalize on that, the Chicago Community Trust is working to breathe some energy into its planned-giving program, says Jamie Phillippe, vice president of development and donor services for the Trust.

Last year, it launched the 1915 Society, a way to recognize donors who have made estate commitments to the Trust, which was founded in 1915 and is the second-oldest community foundation in the U.S.

That has provided the Trust with the opportunity to reach out to supporters and talk about their estate plans and how the Trust might fit in.

“Those conversations have been very gratifying,” says Phillippe. “We’re still in discussion with a lot of people, but the people we’ve been speaking with about it are positively inclined.”

The process has even unearthed about 10 estate commitments the Trust didn’t know about previously.

The recognition society held its inaugural luncheon in May, attended by about 45 to 50 families, and plans to continue the tradition, inviting existing members and inducting new ones.

Phillippe is encouraged by the initial results of the effort.

“There are a lot of corporate leaders, civic leaders and families of wealth who are interested in the well-being of Chicago who want to leave money in perpetuity to serve the needs of Chicago,” she says.

Piggybacking requests

In addition to its strategy of asking some donors both for capital and multi-year annual gifts, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, sometimes also asks particular individuals for a planned gift such as a charitable-gift annuity or a pooled-income fund.

“We have a conversation, too, about putting Bowdoin in their will, and at least informing us they’ve made a bequest intention,” says Randy Shaw, the school’s vice president for development and alumni relations.

In its most recent campaign, for example, an effort that raised $293.57 million, exceeding its goal by over $43 million, a non-financial goal was to add 150 members to the Bowdoin Pines Society, which includes individuals who have indicated they have made a provision for Bowdoin in their estate plans.

The strategy worked: During the campaign, the school enlisted 209 members for the society.

Another option

Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region in Charlotte, N.C., often asks donors to consider making a planned gift if they are not ready to make a major gift, says Cindy Clark, vice president for development.

The organization also is asking its own staff to consider making a planned gift.

At a recent event for members of its Legacy Society, which includes people who have included the agency in their estate plans, Hospice also invited members of the staff who had worked for the organization at 10 years or longer.

Hospice also distributes three planned-giving newsletters a year, each featuring a personal story about a donor who has made a planned gift.

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