DonorsTrust and State Policy Network recently co-hosted their first in a series of three webinars on planned giving: Think Bigger in 2017.

To help nonprofits better understand why and how to solicit estate gifts, the webinar’s host Peter Lipsett of DonorsTrust was joined by Paul Schervish, the Director of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy (CWP) and professor in the Department of Sociology at Boston College, and Benjamin Case, the president of Case Consulting Services.

The webinar kicked off with a discussion on the total wealth transfer expected over the next generation. Dr. Schervish, along with his CWP colleague John Havens, released a study in 2014 about the vast generational transfer of wealth that is expected to take place in the coming decades.

Dr. Schervish and Havens made projections for different growth scenarios that held that the potential total giving to charity could reach from $18 trillion to over $72 trillion between 2007 and 2061. Their projections were based on estimates compiled in 2011, and during the webinar, Dr. Schervish held to his earlier optimism.

Most importantly for nonprofit organizations, however, he shared these key trends in giving:

  • The wealth that used to be left to final estates is increasingly being dealt out during the donor’s lifetime.
  • There is accelerated lifetime wealth transfer—both to heirs and charity—taking place, especially the higher you go on the wealth spectrum.

These observations suggest that nonprofits have a great opportunity to present their most committed donors with projects that will enable them to knit their legacy to the causes they care about most.

Nonprofits should ensure that they have the staff and infrastructure in place to promote, accept, and recognize planned giving. But most importantly, they should consider whether they have programs with a scope and impact great enough to warrant significant estate gifts. Organizations should, as the event’s title urges: “Think bigger in 2017.”

Leading the practical discussion, Benjamin Case offered a few ideas on how to launch a planned giving program:

  1. Consider if and how planned giving could fit into the cultivation plans for each major donor.
  2. Learn how to have the planned giving conversation, and educate all your donor-facing staff on how to talk about planned giving if the opportunity arises.
  3. Recognize donors who make planned gifts in a meaningful way.
  4. Start by approaching those closest to the nonprofit and most likely to make a planned gift; e.g., the organization’s most generous board member.

Above all, though, Case noted that what matters most to the success of a planned giving ask is the strength of the relationship with the donor. Given the intimate nature of the planned giving question, the discussion of planned gifts depends on trust—both between the individual donor and the major gifts officer, and between the donor and the organization as a whole.

The next DonorsTrust/State Policy Network webinar will feature what some state-based public policy organizations have done to promote planned giving.

Photo via Visual Hunt.