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Why You Should Consider Planned Giving
By: Rob Kuck

We all probably had them in our homes as kids, the re-purposed cookie jar hidden somewhere in the recesses of mom's kitchen where she kept her special fund for that new dishwasher or maybe a special school need for us kids. 

This little jar was the depository for the "leftover" money at the end of each week and provided for those needs that were maybe just outside of the family budget.

For our example, the "little jar" in America represents the 9 percent of most family's assets that are in cash; it's the jar we go to for immediate spending needs and tithing. 

Unfortunately, in the prevailing giving culture of many of our churches, gifts most often come from the little jar, and most of your members, and probably your church accountant will tell you, "There ain't as much cash as there used to be in the jar."

So, what's in the BIG jar? 

The answer is the other 91 percent of this country's private non-cash wealth.  The big jar is full of things like 401K plans, IRAs, Life Insurance, and Real Estate. 

The important question for the Christian, if we confess that God owns everything we have, is, "Why isn't this wealth typically shared with the ministries we love?

There are a variety of answers to this important question but the one answer I hear time and time again is simply, "I've never been asked!"  

A Planned Giving program, in general, provides the tools and guidance members need to plan for stewardship of Big Jar assets. Planned gifts come through estates in the form of bequests or through current gifts that require planning, such as charitable trusts and gift annuities.

Christians want to give from the Big Jar, and estate stewardship is a completely natural extension of a lifetime of giving to their church; it usually has just not occurred to them.

The potential is staggering.

Consider that over the next 40 years, an estimated $40 trillion in wealth will be transferred from baby boomers and the WWII generation, according to a Cornell University study. 

While secular non-profit institutions have long understood and cultivated estate gifts from donors, the church is only now awakening to the concept as a means to effectively endow their ministry and facilities and to weather financially turbulent times.

Among church clients who have completed at least 10 estate plans, PhilanthroCorp recorded estate gifts in 2010 ranging from $167,084 to $531,576 with the average gift totaling $289,673. 

The average percentage gifted to charity or missions was 26 percent of the total estate.  It doesn't take much study to see that there is the potential here to bless Kingdom work in a major way. 

If you take a member that has already demonstrated that they love your ministry by giving over a period of time, they are generally more than willing to recognize that an estate gift to the church is a means to recognize the church's dependency on their stewardship when they are gone, much in the same way their other dependants do.

What does it take to get started? 

There is an assumption that because planned gifts, well, take planning, that church staff needs to possess expertise in these areas. 

The reality is that the most important tool in this harvest is consistent communication with members that educates them to the opportunity, reinforces that the church is a worthy recipient of an estate gift, and shares what others have done. 

When they raise their hands and say, "I'd like to know more," the church should have a dedicated staff member that can point them in the right direction with appropriate professional advisors. 

Interestingly, fully 70 percent of the donors we work with have no ministry gift in their estate plan even after working with an attorney.   

To be fruitful, the estate planning conversation with believers needs to focus on issues of love and dependency, not on tax avoidance strategies. 

Like it or not, our churches are competing in a marketplace for the limited resources of our members.  

A planned giving program tells your members that you have a long-term commitment to your mission and its financial well-being, that you recognize their desire to be good stewards, and that the church will, in turn, be a worthy steward.

Rob Kuck is an estate pecialist at PhilanthroCorp, www.plannedgift.com.

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