Giving through one’s will is the most common type of deferred gift. Yet, more than half of American adults don’t have a will. Of those who do have wills, around 95 percent are not including charitable bequests. Why is this such a neglected area in church giving programs?
Church leaders are terribly shortsighted not to have a planned giving program in place and to promote it regularly. The benefits of such a program are many.
Many churches find they have to focus so much time and attention on meeting the annual budget and conducting occasional capital campaigns that little enthusiasm is shown for considering a planned giving program. Also, many churches do not engage in long-range planning but focus instead on the immediate future. Planned giving is not seen as a viable solution to short-term needs. Because planned gift income seems like such a distant possibility, it rarely receives priority attention.
Some church leaders regard planned giving as an option only for the wealthy. These leaders think that a planned giving program would have little appeal in their congregation; therefore, they see no need to promote it. Some church leaders simply feel embarrassed or uncomfortable in suggesting that the church should encourage planned gifts. “We are always asking for money from people when they are alive; must we also ask for a gift when they die?” is a question that has been raised more than once.
The fact of the matter, however, is that none of these are legitimate reasons for neglecting a planned giving program. Church leaders are terribly shortsighted not to have a planned giving program in place and to promote it regularly. The benefits of such a program are many.
- Planned giving provides a tremendous opportunity for Christians to make a powerful witness to their faith and their values.
- Planned giving also helps maintain the work of the church and its related institutions.
- Planned giving enables persons to make larger charitable gifts than otherwise possible.
- Planned giving allows persons to establish permanent living memorials for themselves or others.
- Planned giving also provides tax advantages for the donor.
- Planned giving enhances both annual and capital giving programs.
The fact is that planned gifts are a very important source of revenue for charitable institutions. Nonprofit organizations receive billions of dollars each year in charitable bequests.
Why don’t churches receive a larger percentage? It’s because most have not learned what educational institutions have known for a long time: a consistent planned giving program can produce significant dollars over time. Most institutions of higher education have planned giving programs of some kind. Thus, it should not be surprising that a majority of bequest dollars go to education. Most churches, on the other hand, have neither programs nor policies in place for planned giving and often don’t consider either necessary until they find themselves the unexpected recipients of a planned gift. Receiving sizable bequests would be more common, however, if churches had a well-defined planned giving program.
excerpt from the book, Creating Generous Congregations: A Step by Step Guide, by David L. Heetland, Senior VP for Planned Giving at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. Book can be purchased at www.wipfandstock.com.
United Methodist Church Giving is about people working together to accomplish something bigger than themselves. In so doing, we effect change around the world, all in the name of Jesus Christ. To read stories about the generosity of United Methodists click here.