Back to basics series: this post covers the basics of legacy giving. If you’re new around here, you might find it especially helpful. Go ahead and check out #backtobasics for other articles covering key concepts.

How fundraisers talk about people who make a legacy gift:

Like every industry, fundraising is full of its own technical jargon. Here are some terms that are helpful to understand exactly what will be happening at that professional association breakfast that you are going to be attending next month.

Image Credit: Paul Jarvis

Donors: a group of people who give money and other assets (that can be converted into money) to a nonprofit organization.

Legacy donors (or planned giving donors): a group of people who have identified themselves as having made a gift to a nonprofit organization that will be transferred out of their assets after they die. (This group may include both individuals who have passed away and their gift was received by the nonprofit organization and those donors who are still alive but have notified the nonprofit organization that it is their intention to make a gift in their estate plans.)

Legacy prospects: a group of people (almost always current donors) that a fundraiser identifies as good people to ask for a legacy gift.

How fundraisers talk about legacy gifts inside the office (or at conferences) but never to the real world (‘cause no one understands them).

An expectancy: this is a legacy gift that has been declared to the organization, in other words, the nonprofit organization knows that the donor is planning to make a gift in their will. The fundraiser may or may not know the how much the gift will be, but the money has not yet been received by the nonprofit organization. (That is to say the donor is still alive)

A realized gift: this is crafty fundraiser-speak to avoid talking about dead people. A realized gift is one in which a nonprofit organization has received (or is in the process of receiving) the funds from a donor’s estate. In other words, the donor has died and the part of their assets that they promised to the charity is being or has been transferred to the charity.

Closing a gift: this is how fundraisers talk about the process of working with a legacy donor. This includes helping them understand the idea of legacy giving, to actually taking steps to create a will that includes a nonprofit organization, and documenting the gift details for the nonprofit.

Recognizing a gift: this is the fun part! It includes all the ways fundraisers and nonprofit organizations say thank-you to a donor for making a legacy gift, in their lifetime and after they’ve passed away.

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