Can We Discuss Planned Giving During a Health Crisis?

By susanlienau | May 18, 2020 | Uncategorized
Explore planned giving during COVID-19.

Last week, an article popped up on my Twitter feed regarding a bit of a “scandal” at a major public university. It concerned an email sent from the athletic department that suggested including the department as part of a donor or booster’s estate planning. “Ill-timed” and “tone deaf” were some of the comments made.

When I opened the letter, I discovered why it landed with such a thud: there was no reference to COVID-19 in the letter! The proverbial “elephant in the room” was ignored!

Perhaps this was a mass email that was placed in the queue before the current pandemic took its grip on our country, but what this article – and the letter – reinforced to me was that it is critical when engaging donors or prospects that COVID-19 be addressed. Especially when discussing a planned gift.

Many of us are asking:

Can We Discuss Planned Giving During a Health Crisis?

At Averill we say “Absolutely.”

As in all giving conversations, the key, now more than ever, is Sensitivity! Let’s consider a few facts.

  • The opportunity hasn’t gone away. The “Great Wealth Transfer”(in which Baby Boomers will allocate more than $30 trillion over the next two decades through their estate plans) is still happening. (Per Forbes, 2019; CNBC, 2017; Wall Street Journal, 2014.
  • According to Giving USA’s Annual Report on Giving, estate giving accounts for about 8% of the $390 billion Americans donate each year (that’s $31.2 billion!).
  • Some donors who are concerned about their immediate and short-term finances might prefer to talk about a gift from their estate as opposed to a gift now.
  • As renowned planned giving expert Dr. Russell James likes to say, Don’t lead with death.”
  • Perhaps the planned gift conversation began in 2019, or even earlier this year. Ask for permission for the conversation to continue: We spoke in late 2019 about your estate planning and a planned gift to our organization. Can we resume that conversation now?
  • It’s sometimes helpful to give donors an “inside look” at your job. You might tell them: “Part of my job is to ensure that our donors are aware of all the ways they can support the organization’s mission, especially ways that might make the most sense for them financially. To that end, even long before the COVID-19 crisis became a reality, I’ve felt its good practice to ask supporters if they’ve included the organization in their estates. Is that something we can talk about?

In these times of uncertainty, remember your donors have supported you in the past, and will continue to do so. Be sensitive when you address planned giving, and most importantly acknowledge COVID-19!

For more of our thoughts on engaging supporters during COVID-19, please click here.

Averill Fundraising Solutions stands with you through these challenging times, and is available to talk with you about the thoughts outlined in this memo, YOUR thoughts, and all your advancement needs. Email us at or call us at 888-321-1810.

From the desk of: 

Robert C. Happy, Jr. – President, Averill Fundraising Solutions

Bob Happy has more than 35 years of experience providing expert leadership and direction to clients across the not-for-profit sector. During his career, Bob has served more than 2,000 clients and has guided them to raise more than $3,500,000,000.

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