One question we hear a lot in our coaching program is whether you should include a goal for endowment gifts in your capital campaign.
The question often goes like this:
If we give donors the chance to give to the endowment as a part of our campaign, will they be less likely to the more immediate needs of our campaign?
While there’s a lot to know about endowment and planned giving as they relate to your capital campaign, here are some simple ideas that might help you understand how they fit together… and how they don’t.
Very Simple Endowment and Planned Giving Basics
Outright cash gifts to endowment are relatively rare. It is simply more difficult to raise endowment money in a campaign than any other type of gift. Why?
People with lots of money usually prefer to hold on to it and manage it themselves, rather than turning it over to you.
And if they do make gifts, they want to see their money create an immediate change for the better — not have their money stored away for you to control.
Bequests are the Best Way to Raise Endowment
That is, someone decides to put your organization in their will. And when they pass away, if there’s any money left in the estate, your organization will get some of it.
Now, how do you get your organization included in someone’s will?
Writing a new will isn’t something most people do every day. Most people write wills when something in their family or their finances or the estate laws have changed.
I’m not sure how many wills the average person makes over the course of a life time, but I’ll bet it’s only two or three.
So for you to get in someone’s will, you should remind them again and again. You want them to think about adding your organization when they decide to redo their will. And unfortunately, you just don’t know when that’s going to happen.
Bequests written into wills pay off…eventually.
Wills and endowments are long term. Most people, if they’re lucky, take their sweet time to pass on from this mortal coil. So just because you’re in someone’s will doesn’t mean your organization will get money anytime soon.
But, if you’re lucky and someone in your organization had the foresight to include endowment and planned gifts in the campaign 20 years ago, you might be seeing some amazing “windfall” checks from the estates of donors from an earlier era showing up in an envelope from an attorney you never heard of.
Note: Occasionally people change their minds and their wills, so a bequest intent is not guaranteed. But more often than not, once you’re in someone’s will, you’ll stay there til the money comes in.
An endowment component in your campaign has two great benefits:
- You’re paying it forward. While you may not be around when the gifts come in, someone in the future will be thanking you!
- If a donor includes you in their will, they create a long-term connection to your organization and chances are very good that they’ll stay involved as donors and volunteers and advocates.
What’s the Best Way to Include Endowment in Your Campaign?
I suggest that you do at least these two things.
1. Include a modest endowment goal to be raised through cash and pledges or irrevocable planned gifts.
This is for the occasional donors who are keen on building your endowment now.
It’s good to give them a place in your campaign. But don’t make the endowment goal too high unless you know a donor is planning a big endowment gift.
2. Set non-financial goals for your campaign that will encourage people to include your organization in their wills.
You might, for example, set a goal to get 20 (or some other number) people to include your organization in their will and send you documentation.
An official and specific goal like that will give your solicitors a great opportunity to talk about planned giving with appropriate donors when they solicit their more immediate cash gifts and pledges.
Don’t let endowment and planned giving scare you.
By all means include an endowment component in your campaign — particularly if you have an aging donor base. You’d be silly to miss that opportunity.
We’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts on including endowment in your campaign goals and objectives in the comments below. Did you ever try it? If so, what were the results?