If you have a data set of 10,000 donors who have been giving for at least ten years and have made a gift within the past three years, I’d bet you have about 67-81 donors (with an average of 74) with a planned giving value of between $2.9-5.2 million!

You may look at that and think this is completely false, but I guarantee there are a lot of commitments for planned gifts in your database and you don’t even know about it. Let me explain how we know this.

Studies from a variety of sources, such as the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners, BNY Mellon studies, and data quoted by Dr. Russell James, show us there is a wealth of information about estate plans, planned gifts, and the likelihood of a gift happening at death that we can use to better understand the potential hiding in your database.

Since Veritus Group began providing planned giving services a little over three years ago, we have completed over 70 planned giving assessments, reviewing almost 1.4 million donors. What we’ve learned through these assessments has shown us the power of using data to try to help organizations determine what type of testamentary (or planned) gifts are buried in their database.

The results are really eye-opening. But before I reveal what we’re seeing through these assessments, let’s talk a little bit about some of the assumptions that we make in order to come up with the results.

The most recent data shows that the percentage of people who have done some kind of legacy planning is around 50% (39.2% of adults have wills and 11.8% have funded trusts). So when analyzing donor data, Veritus Group uses 50% as a fair estimate of the percentage of names in a data set with estate plans of some sort.

Other data indicates that the percentage with estate plans increases with age. In fact, data shows that for those 55 years of age or older, there is a range of 35-55% with wills and 6-20% with funded trusts; and that for the oldest segment of 75 years+, 70-75% have plans.

So when do charitable provisions enter these plans? And how do you identify the donors most likely to have already added you to their estate plans so you can meaningfully steward these donors?

First, only about 25-33% of people with plans indicate that they will tell that charity about them. This is important since only about 55% of such gifts remain in those plans for 10 years or more, meaning the opportunity to steward those donors has some serious limitations.

In addition, there is a direct correlation between the years of giving and the creation of a charitable planned gift. In recent Giving USA reports, we can see that there’s a direct correlation between years of giving and a planned gift, with donors who’ve given for at least 10-20 years being 2½ times more likely to leave a bequest than a person who’s been giving 5 years or less. When a donor has been giving for more than 20 years, the likelihood of making a planned gift increases to 5½ times more likely.

We also see a correlation between volunteering, existing planned gifts, lifetime giving, age, wealth, and other factors. Through our analysis, we’ve found that 10% of donors giving for 10 years or more will have a gift to the charity being assessed. This increases to 25% for those giving 20 years or more and 33% for those giving 30 years or more.

Now, let’s see how all of this applies to your database. Using the principles shared above, we can report that a typical data set of 10,000 donors, who have been giving for at least ten years and having made a gift within the past three years, will see the following results:

  • Undiscovered testamentary gifts in a range of 67-81, with an average of 74, having a value of between $2.9-5.2 million.
  • Donors ready for a Planned Giving Officer Portfolio in a range of 211-357, with an average of 284, with a potential value of between $11.4-19.9 million.
  • Donors ready for further planned giving marketing and qualification in the range of 3,161-4,666, with an average of 3,913.

In the data assessments Veritus Group has done, the charity’s data usually has existing planned gift donors, with an average of 129, having a value of between $4.9-8.5 million. But how solid are those commitments?

Unfortunately, not very. Recent data shows that of those with a reported executed will, about 45% will fail to probate the will. Of those with an executed trust, only 76% fully implement it at death. Combined with the fact that only 55% of legacy donors keep a charitable gift in their plans for more than 10 years, this is a clear indication of the need to identify existing donors, and as new planned gift donors are known, to implement a strong recognition and stewardship program. The days of “get the gift and forget it” are long over, and this data shows that the charity which ignores its planned gift donors stands to lose half of them.

You can see that all of these numbers and the accompanying analysis gives you a very high probability that you are unaware of the tremendous value of planned gifts in your database.

If you’re ready to uncover the hidden potential of your planned giving program, you can request a free, no-obligations assessment here.

There’s no better time than now to start connecting with planned giving donors that have already committed to your organization.

Robert Shafis

Robert Shafis is the Director of Planned Giving Services at Veritus Group. He has been a successful fundraiser, speaker, and attorney for over 30 years, and programs under his direction have accounted for over $750 Million in major and planned gifts. As Director of Major Gift Planning at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, and Director of Major and Planned Giving for The Field Museum, he participated in campaigns of over $200 Million each. Bob is a board member of the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners and speaks to national and local groups about planned giving, estate planning, charitable tax issues, and the process of fundraising.