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Planned Gifts: Tips and Tricks for Managing in Salesforce

Planned gifts, or legacy gifts, are something we often discuss with clients who use or are looking to use Salesforce to manage fundraising data and processes. Salesforce can be customized to meet the needs of any organization’s planned giving program. In this post, you’ll find a few options and things to consider with each option.

What is Planned Giving?

Let’s start with first defining planned giving and a bit about these types of gifts. Planned gifts are a type donation that an individual chooses by committing a financial or stock gift (occasionally property or items that are illiquid) at some future date. Nonprofit organizations receive funds from a planned gift either at a designated disbursement date or upon the estate settlement of the constituent (typically after the death of the constituent). Planned giving is also sometimes called “legacy giving”, referring to the legacy that the donor leaves for the nonprofit organization. Effectively managing planned gift disbursements will often require the nonprofit’s legal advisor or team to navigate.

Given the nature in which these funds are received, it is uncommon for an organization to account for planned gifts in any weighted pipeline income estimates until details of the disbursement are confirmed. If planned giving is recorded as part of long-term budgeting, the planned gifts are almost always considered separately from the more common annual or occasional gifts.

A few interesting facts about planned gifts:

  • While 70% of Americans and 80% of Canadians give to charity at some point in their lifetime, only about 5% make a legacy gift
  • Most major (planned) gifts come from donors who were not previously considered major donors to an organization.*


Approaches to tracking Planned Gifts in Salesforce

As mentioned above, most organizations do not include planned gifts in their forecast reports for donor revenue. But, all organizations will likely want to know if a constituent has informed the organization of an established planned gift. The key here is knowing. A lot planned gifts are not disclosed prior to the donor’s estate settlement. If the gift is disclosed, it is in your organization’s best interest to track this information with other relevant constituent data so that future engagements with the donor are informed by this planned contribution.

For these reasons, organizations should consider the best approach for tracking planned gifts in their donor CRM. Below are two approaches I recommend.

Custom Record Type on Donation (Opportunity) Object

This approach is relatively simple to configure and manage as most users and administrators are familiar with the functionality of the donation (opportunity) object. The configuration requires minimal upfront or ongoing effort on behalf of the administrator. Users can easily see planned gifts on the account and contact records where they are accustomed to viewing donation information. In addition, no additional data entry is required when funds are received. Users only need to update the stage, payment date, and any other information that is relevant for the organization and the gift.

There are, however, some challenges to this approach. Most importantly, evaluation of and updates to all reports on donations and donation roll-up fields is recommended so that planned gifts are excluded from pipeline forecasts and donor totals. This is especially true considering that the close date and amount, which are both required fields for all opportunities, will be only estimates until disbursement information is provided. Some development officers may shy away from this approach because it will require them to enter in a date, which essentially infers the date of death.

Custom Object

For some organizations, using a custom object to track planned giving is the best approach. With this approach, reporting and donor roll-up summary data will be totally separate from the opportunity data. In addition, administrators can define the required and available fields for the custom object, avoiding the uncomfortable situation described above. Administrators also have additional flexibility, such as creating multiple record types with custom fields and specific page layouts for various types of planned gifts (bequests, annuities, stock, property, etc) without over-complicating the donation object.

This approach does require time for configuration and ongoing administration of a custom object, as well as training for users on how and when to use the object. Depending on the complexity of the planned giving program, administrators may also build and manage child objects, junction objects, and automations related to the planned gift object. Also, when the donation is received, best practice is to enter the donation as a donation (opportunity) record, requiring some double-entry of data for users.

Which approach is right for you? That really depends on several factors:

  • How many planned gifts do you receive annually?
  • Do you typically know prior to estate settlement of the gift intent?
  • Do you have complex tracking requirements that necessitate customizations that would be cumbersome on the donation (opportunity) object?

If planned gifts are infrequent for your organization, starting with the donation record type is the best approach. As your organization grows, or if you have an established planned giving program, exploring the custom object path will provide you with the most options.

Looking for some tips on implementing one of these options? Check out these blog posts for more information:


*Source: Blue Avocado