By Shauw Chin Capps
While most churches focus on tithing from members that brings in immediate cash, it is just as important to think about deferred giving in the form of bequests or planned gifts.
The good thing about bequest gifts is that they do not impact the current cash flow of the donor. In other words, a member of your church can be a regular tither AND leave a bequest gift to your church in her/his will. In fact, research done by planned giving experts found that donors who make a bequest/planned gift increase their donations in the subsequent five years by an average of 75%.
If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. A church member who leaves a percentage of their estate to the church cares deeply about the future of the church. This care will translate in the present moment in the form of increased regular giving through their tithes precisely because they want to see their church thrive now and into the future.
Asking church members to remember their church when writing their wills may seem awkward, but it does not have to be especially since we are a people of faith. The best approach for raising planned gifts is to talk about the future of your church, its vision, and the opportunity for church members to invest in this future and vision through planned/bequest giving. There are two giving trends worth noting that speak volumes about the importance of being intentional about asking church members to remember their church in their will:
- Over the next 25 years, an estimated $68 trillion will be passed on as the large and wealthy Baby Boomer generation ages. This, according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), is the largest wealth transfer in human history, and may be the biggest opportunity for philanthropy, ever.
- While in general, Americans are terrible about writing wills, there has been a huge surge in will writing since the Coronavirus hit in March 2020.
There are two simple steps your church can take to start to develop a planned giving strategy:
- Designate at least one month of each year to promote and communicate about this type of giving. January is usually a good month to do this as people are thinking about making resolutions and engaging in positive habits/practices. October is another good month to do this as the month of October has been designated as Estate Planning Awareness Month.
- Make will-writing more accessible to your congregation members. Because having end of life plans and making estate gifts to one’s church are such important decisions, the CBF Foundation has partnered with FreeWill to offer a toolkit for our CBF partner churches. The toolkit includes turnkey templates for emails, social media posts and churchwide letters to emphasize and encourage this element of end of life planning. It also provides the FreeWill online platform that any members of your church can use to develop a legal will at absolutely no cost to them. The toolkit is available here.
For more information on this topic, please contact Shauw Chin Capps, CBF’s Chief Development Officer and CBF Foundation President, at email@example.com.