Legacy Giving touches and transforms lives! When you remember your church in your estate plan you water the ministries of the future, strengthen your congregation, and help people to find and be found by Christ.
It feels great to be a Legacy Giver, because you know you are keeping your church vital and strong in difficult times.
But Legacy Giving doesn’t just happen. Legacy Gifts need to be invited and encouraged. That’s why a “Legacy Giving Ministry” is so important.
The mission and purpose of a Legacy Giving Ministry is to promote, encourage and thank those who have made a planned gift to support the ministry of the parish, including the development of a Legacy Society.
Your church’s Legacy Society includes anyone who has remembered the church in their estate plans, or has otherwise made the church the beneficiary of a planned gift of some kind. (For example, a bequest in a will, trust beneficiary, pay on death account, life insurance policy, charitable remainder trust, etc.)
Starting a Legacy Giving Ministry is not difficult. The number one tip is this: “Don’t get lost in the weeds!” You need not begin with complex gift giving policies or wordy vestry motions. Just follow the steps below, organized into PHASE I, PHASE II, and PHASE III.
Finally, keep in mind that we have a Legacy Giving Task Force that is here to help and support you! We can answer questions by phone. We can meet with you, your vestry, your Legacy Giving committee or anyone else to answer questions or offer guidance. Reach out to us through our diocesan liaison, Mark Miliotto, by email email@example.com or phone 313-833-4427.
1. Appoint a Planned Giving Ministry “Steering Team” – Draw from key leaders, vestry, stewardship, former wardens, patriarch, matriarchs of the church.
2. Choose a Name – Choose something that has meaning to the church if possible. For example, if your church already has a ‘Founders Day’ as part of its annual events, consider a name such as Founder’s Circle, etc. or just go with “[Name of Church] Legacy Society.”
3. Annual Legacy Letter Campaign – Similar to the annual appeal letter, have your rector priest-in-charge, or Legacy Gift Committeesend a letter to the parish asking people to self-identify if they have already made a planned gift of some kind while speaking to the theology of giving, legacy, mission of the church, etc.
4. Create Annual Recognition Event – It doesn’t matter too much what kind of event you have, so long as it is either fun or interesting or meaningful in some way.
a. Annual Date – Choose a date that has some meaning to the church and no pre-existing conflicts, but also is a date that will be pre-calendared each year. (Very important – movable dates are easy to get lost in annual planning)
b. Consider a Guest Speaker – A guest speaker helps make the event special. Their speaking topic will not be to encourage legacy gifts, since the attendees have already made such a gift, but to remind them why they make such a difference. The talk should reinforce their decision, thank them for their commitment, and share with them stories of how legacy gifts make an impact.
Possible guest speakers:
c. Promote Annual Recognition Event – In the month leading up to the event:
5. Add Planned Giving to the Annual Pledge Card – Add two 2 check boxes on your pledge card (digital and hardcopies) that you run every year:
[ ] I am interested in making a bequest or other planned gift
[ ] I have ALREADY remembered St. Paul’s in my estate plans
6. Annually Repeat Steps 3-5
7. Keep the following in mind:
When your Legacy Gift Ministry is established, and probably between Year 1 and Year 3, you will want to take your process to the next level by undertaking the following seven steps. Adopt them on your own level, based on your own needs.
8. Adopt an Undesignated Bequest Policy – When an undesignated gift is received by the church without a policy, the proceeds are at the discretion of the vestry and must be handled on a case by case basis. At times, this can lead to conflict. For example, some members might feel that the Giver would have wanted X, but others may feel that the church most needs Y. Establishing a policy will help avoid such conflicts. Establishing a policy can also encourage planned giving, as givers feel more confident that such gifts will be well managed. Consider having your vestry, bishop’s committee, or board adopt a policy on how undesignated gifts will be handled (For example: 100% to the endowment, part to the endowment, part to the discretion of the vestry, etc.)
10. Offer Workshops/Classes to Promote Planned Giving — Offer “Life & Legacy” Adult Formation Classes around Ash Wednesday that mix spiritual conversations around purpose/legacy with practical information on elder care, estate planning, etc. All of this will be brought to you by “The Planned Giving Ministry of St…” or “The Legacy Giving Ministry of…”
Titles of such programs might be:
11. Add Legacy Giving to your Website
12. Year Round Promotion
13. Develop a Follow-up & Referral System – This system would be for those who want to leave a planned gift but need help getting started. This follow up and referral would involve doing the following with those who are interested:
Not every person goes to the Olympics as a competitor. In fact, most do not! In the same way, most churches do not need to consider Phase III. However, if your church or ministry relies heavily on estate gifts, or if you have a particularly interested congregation, you will want to begin Phase III work, probably under the direction of a dedicated staff person.
Phase III work is:
14. More Proactive.
15. More One-on-one.
16. Involving More Complex Giving Vehicles.
17. Involving More Intensive Marketing.
18. Involving More Sophisticated Donor Development.