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Five Rules for Preserving Donor Expectancies

Reprinted with permission from The Major Gifts Report newsletter (

It’s a major accomplishment every time you learn of someone who has included your organization in his/her estate plans since many donors choose not to share that information during their lifetimes. But once you’re aware of an expectancy, what are you doing to maintain it or even solidify the relationship?

These five precepts will help ensure the donor won’t reverse his/her estate plans:

  1. Get a good reading on what matters most to the individual. Understanding donors’ personalities and motivations for giving will help direct the level of attention and/or anonymity their receive. Some like the attention while others wish prefer anonymity.

  2. Practice good stewardship even if it’s years before you might realize the gift. A young person who makes a commitment to contribute a life insurance policy, for instance, deserves the same attention as a senior citizen who has made a bequest.

  3. Have programs in place that recognize those who choose to be recognized. While not everyone desires attention, develop programs that recognize those who do appreciate recognition — a heritage society with accompanying benefits, listings in your annual report and on a plaque in a public location of your facility, etc. Such programs let the public know you’re in the business of accepting planned gifts as well.

  4. Keep the communication regular but varied in the method of delivery. In addition to “broad brush” cultivation efforts — quarterly planned gift newsletter, general newsletter or magazine, invitations to events, etc. — provide individual communications such as face-to-face meetings, personal correspondence and lunch with your CEO that keep these important persons involved and in the know.

  5. Honor donors’ confidentiality. Planned gifts are a very personal matter. Print “in strictest confidence” on planned gift communications and stress your high level of confidentiality whenever discussing planned gift matters.


About the Author: This article is being reprinted from the from The Major Gifts Report newsletter with the permission of Stevenson, Inc., PO Box 4528, Sioux City, IA 51104. Phone (712) 239-3010. Fax (712) 239-2166. Website:

Established in 1993, Stevenson, Inc. publishes six monthly nationally-acclaimed newsletters with thousands of subscribers throughout the U.S., Canada and other foreign countries. They include:

  • Successful Fund Raising
  • Special Events Galore
  • The Membership Management Report
  • The Volunteer Management Report
  • The Major Gifts Report
  • Nonprofit Communications Report

The newsletters are sold on an annual subscription basis, focus on specific aspects of nonprofit and association management and carry no advertising. Additionally, the company has published several "hands-on" manuals and special reports. To see a sample or subscribe to any of these newsletters, visit Stevenson, Inc. at

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