Major & Principal Giving
BWF Services: Engagement and Donor Experience, Program Assessments and Optimization

It is widely understood that planned giving can play a crucial part of any comprehensive fundraising program.

However, according to the 2023 Giving USA report, only about 37 percent of development staff felt confident enough to discuss the concepts of planned giving and deferred gift options.  This lack of confidence often leads gift officers to avoid the topic when interacting with donors. As a result, many nonprofits miss out on the chance to explore a variety of options with donors about how they can support their organization.

There are some straightforward ways that development leaders can help their staff, and even themselves, feel more at ease with planned giving concepts. Let’s explore three ideas:

1. Adopt a strategy of frequent short training sessions.

Design a training curriculum that aligns with your annual development schedule. Start the year with a half-day workshop focusing on the most common types of deferred gifts, like bequests and beneficiary designations. This workshop should provide gift officers the chance to delve into case studies and practice donor scenarios through role-play. If needed, an external consultant could be brought in to deliver a session that’s specifically tailored to your organization’s needs.

For the rest of the year, schedule quarterly training sessions, possibly during lunch hours, to make learning accessible and less intimidating. Consider enrolling staff in a webinar hosted by your local planned giving association or collectively reviewing a planned giving article or thought-provoking blog together. While in-house training sessions can build upon each other to increase the depth of understanding about each gift technique, the aim should be to boost confidence rather than just impart knowledge. As your gift planning program expands and gift officers become more comfortable with having gift planning conversations with donors, more technical sessions can be introduced.

2. Establish shared goals.

Set metrics that anticipate and track new planned gift intentions and assign deferred gift solicitation targets to all gift officers. By starting with modest targets (some offices start with two solicitations per year for all gift officers), these shared goals will foster focus and collaboration on planned giving. Assign small numbers of deferred gift prospects to development officers and check in on their donor progress. Acknowledge gift officers who secure new planned gifts. Each year, the development team can identify together one or two unique ways that gift officers can steward current or planned gift donors. Measure and celebrate the successful completion of these unique stewardship actions.

3. Promote regular reviews and share success stories.

Ensure that planned giving is a recurring topic in all prospect review strategy sessions and development staff meetings. Allocating even 10 minutes per meeting to planned giving can help embed the topic within the staff. Celebrate the realization of matured bequests. Make time for gift officers to share stories of existing or recently closed planned gifts. Encourage discussions around the cues and clues gift officers identified in their work with donors, along with successful cultivation and solicitation strategies.

Providing gift officers with the necessary resources, advice, and motivation to feel confident in planned giving is a crucial step in broadening the scope of opportunities for your nonprofit organization. This confidence will allow your fundraisers to collaborate more effectively with donors, structuring gifts that will have an impact both during their lifetime and beyond.

Looking to boost confidence in your nonprofit’s development office? Let BWF be your guide. With a rich history spanning over 40 years, BWF has not only been assessing and designing effective planned giving programs for a multitude of nonprofits, but it has also been providing quality training to ensure teams are fully prepared to manage planned giving effectively. Our expertise lies in tailoring a planned giving training program that aligns with your organization’s long-term fundraising goals.

At BWF, we stand ready to assist you with planned giving programs. Please reach out It’s a privilege to help.