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6 Simple Steps to Launch a Planned Giving Program

Courtesy photo.
Courtesy photo.
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Ann Michel outlines six simple steps for launching a planned giving program to help this generation faithfully steward their lifetime assets.

Those born between 1946 and 1964 (baby boomers) are the richest generation in the nation’s history. They currently control at least 70 percent of all disposable income in the country, and the estimated $30 trillion in assets they will distribute through their estates will be the largest ever generational transfer of wealth. For the many congregations whose pews are full of older adults, this is a now-or-never moment. Helping this generation of churchgoers faithfully steward their lifetime assets will be critical to the future viability of many congregations.

One of the simplest things a congregation can do to help members properly steward their lifetime assets is to stress the importance of having a will.

Yet churches typically do a poor job of encouraging gifts from lifetime assets. One reason for this failure is that no one attends to this need on an ongoing basis.

1. Form a planned giving team.
Just as you need a team to give leadership to your annual stewardship campaign, you need a team focused on planned giving.

2. Seek guidance.
If your denomination or judicatory has a foundation, learn what assistance they can offer. Typically, a foundation can provide advice on establishing an endowment, assistance in developing a planned giving program, and investment services. Working with such a foundation is often particularly helpful for small congregations or congregations with relatively small endowments.

3. Establish a bequest policy.
Even if your church has never received a bequest, it needs a bequest policy. If you receive an unanticipated bequest without having a policy in place, pressing needs or wants from various segments of the church will likely win out over using the bequest as endowment.

4. Educate congregants about the importance of having a will.
One of the simplest things a congregation can do to help members properly steward their lifetime assets is to stress the importance of having a will. According to Gallup research 30% of those 65 and older and almost 40% of those with incomes of $100,000 or more do not have a will.

5. Encourage proportionate giving from estates.
Whenever you discuss tithing or proportionate giving, remember to mention that it doesn’t only apply to current income. One of the simplest ways for someone to make an estate gift is to specify that a percentage of their estate go to the church. This is superior in many ways to specifying a gift of a set amount.

6. Form a legacy society.
Churches and other charities often draw attention to the importance of estate giving by forming a group recognizing people who have the church in their wills. Creating such a group is a good way to start a conversation about planned giving. It encourages members to act on their intentions and celebrates the importance of making lasting gifts to the church

excerpt from a story by Ann A. Michel, staff of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, co-editors of Leading Ideas e-newsletter. Click here for full article.

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.

This article is excerpted from Generosity, Stewardship, and Abundance: A Transformational Guide to Church Finances (Rowman and Littlefield, 2021) by Lovett H. Weems Jr. and Ann A. Michel. This book is available at CokesburyRowman & Littlefield (Save 30% with code RLFANDF30), and Amazon. Used by permission.