Fall is almost officially here, so your organization’s year-end fundraising campaign will soon be underway.

Year-end giving is critical to engage and motivate your supporters as they reflect on the past and anticipate the future. When putting together your fundraising strategy, do not forget to include the planned giving vehicles. Gift planning can play a pivotal role in shaping the success of your year-end campaign and advancing your mission over the long term. Additionally, year-end fundraising campaigns are an opportunity to provide donors with every possible option to support your organization’s mission.

Most organizations see the majority of their funds raised in the last three months of the calendar year. That’s because donors are often motivated by the spirit of generosity and to take advantage of potential tax breaks. Nonprofits have a unique opportunity to capitalize on these factors, realizing the short-term goals of cash while prioritizing assets donated that are considered future cash.

Planned giving methods

Various planned giving vehicles are available to implement during your year-end fundraising campaign, enabling your donors to make thoughtful and structured contributions. Beyond the immediate traditional cash donations, individuals can integrate their long-term philanthropy goals into their overall financial and estate planning.

Here are a few planned giving vehicles to consider in the context of year-end fundraising campaigns:

Retirement Accounts

You can uncover plenty of hidden opportunities when you communicate with your donors about donating their retirement accounts, such as IRAs or 401(k), which grew to $39 trillion in 2021. 


A bequest is a gift made through a will or a trust that designates a portion of the donor’s estate to your nonprofit. This popular and straightforward method allows donors to make significant contributions without impacting their financial situation.

Charitable Gift Annuities (CGAs)

A CGA involves a donor making a gift of cash or other assets to your organization in exchange for a fixed annual income for themselves or a loved one. This gift provides donors with a dependable income stream while supporting your mission. If you are unsure if your organization is capable of providing this type of planned giving vehicle, the American Council on Gift Annuities provides helpful information about CGAs.

Charitable Remainder Trusts

Donors can establish charitable remainder trusts that allow them to transfer assets into a trust that provides income to beneficiaries for a specific period. After the trust term concludes, the remaining assets come to your organization.

Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs)

DAFs allow individuals to contribute assets to a fund managed by a charitable organization. Donors receive an immediate tax benefit and can recommend how funds are distributed to your organization over time. You can leverage the DAF ecosystem to drive philanthropic revenue at your organization.

Life Insurance Policies

Donors can designate your organization as a life insurance policy beneficiary. Donors can leverage existing policies or buy new ones, which could mean substantial future cash for your organization.

Planned Giving Allows for Deeper Donor Relationships

Adding planned giving vehicles into your year-end campaign allows donors to build deeper, more meaningful connections with your nonprofit. By educating your donors about your impact, you also provide an invitation to support in other meaningful ways.

Immediate cash will always remain essential, but you should also plan for future cash.

Implementation is the key, and here are some ideas:

  • Segment your donors who are 70 years old and older and email them about the opportunity to give from their IRAs. Those 72 and older must satisfy the required minimum distribution from these financial assets.
  • Ask your donors to name your organization in their will, trust, or DAFs.
  • Send a survey asking your donors if they have designated your organization in their will, trust, or DAF.

The only way to ensure you receive future cash gifts is to announce that donors can give these types of gifts.

Looking for help to get started?

More Insights


2023 Philanthropic Landscape, 12th Edition

August 29th, 2023

Featuring essential philanthropic research from all major sources in the industry, this exclusive report examines key themes in American philanthropy and the latest data on giving by US individuals, foundations, and corporations.


Independent School Fundraising: What Now, if No Campaign?

August 14, 2023

If conditions are not yet optimal for a campaign, consider these tactics to advance your school’s fundraising efforts.

Your board has determined the need for a fundraising campaign, and you are responsible for elevating this activity. How do you know if your organization is ready to implement a successful campaign?

Your first step in determining campaign readiness is confidently answering “yes” to the following questions:

  1. Do you have defined goals that require funding?
  2. Is your data in an implementable status and do you know who your prospects are?
  3. Do you have a compelling story to tell?
  4. Does your staff have the bandwidth to effectively implement a campaign?
  5. Is your Board ready to lead a campaign?
  6. Have you defined an adequate philanthropic goal and timeline to complete?
  7. Do you have a well-defined volunteer structure?
  8. Are your volunteers ready to serve on a committee or request funds from others?

Four previous CCS client partners, who each developed the successful foundations for their campaigns, provide their advice from the field — sharing their perspective and recommendations for any organization considering embarking on a campaign.

The Feasibility and Planning Study

All successful campaigns begin with an informed roadmap. To provide your organization with this information and confidence, implementing a feasibility and planning study is the first step in building your campaign foundation. A study will inform the following areas:

  • Prospects’ relationships to your organization and their perception of your progress
  • Reactions to your initial case for support and areas of need
  • Advice on success directly from your prospects and supporters
  • Individuals’ willingness to engage in your proposed campaign
  • Overall view of the philanthropic climate and economy

Determining an Informed Campaign Goal

Your study provides a wealth of knowledge and guides your organization to understand the preliminary potential of your campaign. For many organizations, campaigns are developed out of financial necessity. The reality is that many organizational financial goals may not align with a philanthropic goal feasible from their network of prospects. A planning study provides qualitative feedback directly from your constituents around their willingness and initial interest in the project. This valuable information helps ensure you set a preliminary ambitious, yet achievable, fundraising goal.

Julie Lucas, Chief Advancement Officer | Darlington School | Rome, GA | Campaign Quiet Phase 2023

Case for Support Development

The next phase of campaign readiness ensures your organization can effectively define and articulate your case for support or organizational need. Your case explains “why” your organization exists and serves as a physical document that articulates all that your organization does and the impact it has in your community. To fully define your fundraising case, you must answer the following questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do in the community?
  • How do you create positive change?
  • Why do you need support?
  • How much do you need?
  • When do you need it?
  • How will your campaign make an impact on your organization and those you serve?

Preparing your case for support prior to launching your campaign ensures that your organization and recruited volunteers feel confident in sharing the message and inviting others’ support. Clear direction and confident communication are essential to any successful campaign.

Recruiting Strong Volunteers

Volunteers are the lifeblood of any organization in both carrying out your mission and supporting it in the early campaign stages. Identifying and engaging the best volunteers is an essential step in determining if your organization is ready to take on a campaign.

Passionate volunteerism begins with your board and disseminates through your entire organizational community. It is important to identify and recruit volunteers who are:

  • Engaged in the mission and willing to work
  • Leading by example
  • Enthusiastic and positive
  • Attending meetings and making themselves available
  • Active participants in your work and respond in a timely manner
  • Offering practical and supportive advice on prospects and strategy

Msgr. John J. Enzler, Retired CEO Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington | Washington, DC | Completed $100,000,000 Campaign | 2021

Analyzing Your Data

A foundational element of any successful campaign includes the development of a strategic and well-informed prospect pipeline. Utilizing data analytics tools to understand your database provides the first step in developing a pipeline that will drive your campaign activity.

Data analytics tools, including predictive modeling, Monte Carlo simulations, or RFM analysis, provide organizations the opportunity to understand those prospects most likely to become major donors, those individuals with potential to engage in a campaign, and those who should be researched further. Your campaign pipeline should be developed with a top 75-100 prospect list and a robust list of additional prospects, providing a runway for campaign success.

David Sears, Vice President of Institutional Advancement | McDaniel College | Westminster, MD | Campaign Readiness Phase 2023

Developing Your Campaign Plan

The final step to your campaign readiness is to ensure you have a campaign plan prepared prior to the launch of your campaign efforts. A successful campaign plan will include:

  • Timeline
  • Phasing
  • Organizational structure
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Table of gifts
  • Marketing and communications plan
  • Goals and benchmarks
  • Budget
  • Calendar
  • Donor recognition plan
  • Gift acceptance policies

A strategic and robust campaign plan provides organizations the opportunity to drive activity in your campaign and ensures effective implementation.

Norm Wedderburn, President/CEO | Make-A-Wish Southern Florida | Completed $20,000,000 Campaign | 2021

Preparing for your next campaign is no small task. Addressing the foundational principles of your case, leadership, prospects, and plan are essential to developing your campaign and providing your organization with the confidence to move forward successfully.

More Insights


Enhance Your Year-End Fundraising With Gift Planning

August 31, 2023

Year-end fundraising campaigns are an opportunity to provide donors with every possible option to support your mission.


2023 Philanthropic Landscape, 12th Edition

August 29th, 2023

Featuring essential philanthropic research from all major sources in the industry, this exclusive report examines key themes in American philanthropy and the latest data on giving by US individuals, foundations, and corporations.

2023 Philanthropic Landscape

For the past 12 years, CCS’s Philanthropic Landscape reports have compiled and analyzed data from Giving USA and other leading industry sources to reveal an accurate, laser-focused look at the current state of philanthropy in the US.

The cover page of the 2023 Philanthropic Landscape report displaying on a laptop computer.

In addition to examining 2022’s philanthropic trends in the individual, high net worth, foundation, corporate, digital, and gift planning spaces, the 2023 Philanthropic Landscape report also investigates emerging innovations in AI and data for philanthropy.

This 12th edition report answers questions like:

  • How much did American donors give to charity in 2022?
  • What giving methods are disrupting the philanthropic sector?
  • How are organizations looking to integrate DEI from the inside out?
  • What data innovations can a nonprofit use to effectively engage and retain donors?

Set your organization up for success in the year ahead by downloading your copy of the report today.

In this year’s report, we include a new chapter, ‘Innovations in Data and Technology for Philanthropy,’ which closely examines the dynamic world of data, analytics, and the emerging impact of artificial intelligence. Particularly, we offer greater insight on how data, analytics, and AI intersect in our increasingly technology-reliant world and how they will continue to impact our philanthropic ecosystem.

Lindsay Marciniak, CCS Managing Director and Report Co-Chair
A profile picture of Lindsay Marciniak
A profile picture of Ruyi Lu.

While the current philanthropic landscape is nuanced and complex, we’ve seen in our work with client partners that motivated donors will continue rising to the occasion with their giving, and nonprofit organizations will continue expanding their reach and making an impact in the communities they serve. It is an exciting time to be part of the advancements bettering our world.

Ruyi Lu, CCS Senior Vice President and Report Co-Chair


See all our Philanthropic Landscape reports throughout the years.

How can we help you?

CCS offers an array of services to help nonprofits grow their fundraising.

NEW YORK, NY— CCS Fundraising released the twelfth edition of its Philanthropic Landscape report, the premier resource for nonprofits and associations that compiles and analyzes industry research from Giving USA and other leading sources. The report provides commentary and a synthesis of the current state of philanthropy in the U.S. from the country’s leading fundraising and philanthropy experts to help nonprofit leaders create informed and nimble fundraising strategies for the new year.

CCS’s 2023 report takes a deep dive into the expected flattening of US charitable giving after the pandemic era and racial justice movement of 2020 and 2021 spurred record giving levels nationwide. The report analyzes this readjustment in giving coupled with economic fluctuations, and reveals what new and reemerging trends nonprofit leaders and fundraisers will want to monitor as they set strategy for next year and beyond.

“In this year’s report, we also included a new chapter, ‘Innovations in Data and Technology for Philanthropy,’ which closely examines the dynamic world of data, analytics, and the emerging impact of artificial intelligence.” said Lindsay Marciniak, CCS Managing Director and Report Co-Chair. “Particularly, we offer greater insight on how data, analytics, and AI intersect in our increasingly technology-reliant world and how they will continue to impact our philanthropic ecosystem.”

Giving USA’s initial 2023 data reveals charitable giving appears to have decreased by 3.4% in 2022 to $499.33 billion. However, when assessing multi-year trends, philanthropy has steadily grown when accounting for inflation activity and factoring in additional data. Donors continue giving, and Americans are still generous.

Ruyi Lu, CCS Senior Vice President and Report Co-Chair, remarked, “While the current philanthropic landscape is nuanced and complex, we’ve seen in our work with client partners that motivated donors will continue rising to the occasion with their giving, and nonprofit organizations will continue expanding their reach and making an impact in the communities they serve. It is an exciting time to be part of the advancements bettering our world.”

The 2023 report discusses essential findings from across the field of philanthropic research, including:

  • Individuals, foundations and corporations donated $453.73 billion in 2022.
  • Giving across five sectors of philanthropy grew in current dollars in 2022, with two—international affairs and foundations—outpacing inflation.
  • Individuals were the largest drivers of US philanthropy in 2022, giving $319.04 billion.
  • The total amount donated by individuals and the number of donors both decreased in 2022.
  • Foundation giving grew by 2.5%, to an estimated $105.21 billion in 2022.
  • Corporate philanthropy as a giving source increased by 3.4% in 2022, totaling $21.08 billion.
  • Bequest giving increased by 2.3% over 2021 to $45.60 billion in 2022.
  • Grants from DAFs increased by 9% to $11.2 billion in 2022.

Anyone can download a free copy of the CCS Fundraising 2023 Philanthropic Landscape.

About CCS Fundraising

CCS Fundraising is a strategic consulting firm that has partnered with nonprofits for transformational change for over 75 years. CCS Fundraising provides a wide range of services that support and strengthen nonprofit fundraising programs, including campaign management, strategic planning, data analytics, systems and change management, and major gift strategy. The firm’s expert consultants, skilled in campaign and development strategy, work closely with organizations of all sizes across nonprofit sectors and geographies. For more information on CCS Fundraising, please visit www.ccsfundraising.com.

The last few years have undeniably changed the way people work. Remote work flexibility has advanced from a desirable benefit to an expectation, and returning to the traditional office environment continues to be debated. How does fundraising evolve as a relationship-based business to meet stakeholder needs, including employees, volunteers and donors? How do we best respond to the continuing need for a thriving nonprofit culture to drive performance versus the need to use technology to facilitate work and allow for enhanced work-life balance for employees?

The answer, we believe, lies in finding the right intersection of leadership, culture, and people at your nonprofit.

Venn diagram with the words

Ensure Leadership Sets the (Right) Tone

Thriving in today’s organizational environment requires thoughtful and deliberate leadership, generally understood to directly correlate to organizational performance. Poor leaders often leave money on the table, while effective leaders know how to make a profit and keep the needs of their key stakeholders at the forefront of their decision-making.

The most extraordinary leaders help establish norms for how individuals carry out their organization’s work, align that work to mission, and build an organizational culture that meets the needs of all stakeholders.

Acknowledge and Understand Culture Complexities

Culture defines what an organization encourages, discourages, accepts, or rejects and is anchored in unspoken behaviors, mindsets, and social patterns. While leadership must directionally set an effective culture, organizations must simultaneously recognize culture’s multi-faceted and multi-layered intricacies.

Factors That Anchor and Alter an Organization’s Cultural Trajectory

  • Mission/services: An independent school may have a particular organizational culture based on its history; a faith-based institution will have a specific culture based on its denominational beliefs, etc. (CCS tailors our Catholic services for this very reason).
  • Nonprofit sector: A hospital with significant earned income (e.g., clinical care) will likely have a different set of cultural norms than a human services organization largely or entirely dependent on philanthropic support and volunteer contributions.
  • Organizational size: A large organization, like a University, will likely have a different culture than a five-person nonprofit.
  • Geography: An organization on the West Coast will have a different set of community norms than one in the South or the Northeast.
  • Development infrastructure: A hospital foundation may have its own culture separate from its supported hospital; a centralized university advancement department may have one culture, while a decentralized one may have many separate cultures; a federated networked nonprofit may have a different set of cultures through each of its local chapters, etc.

Leadership is responsible for recognizing and understanding the various external and internal characteristics influencing its organizational culture and reconciling that with its vision for a cultural ideal state.

Build a Great Team by Putting People First

As important as leadership and planning are to organizational culture, change is fully co-dependent on adoption and implementation by the people working within the culture. Each team member can add to, complement, or detract from leadership’s cultural planning and intentions. The people themselves must buy in to the cultural design, execution, and accountability to enable the strongest likelihood of success for collective cultural change.

Unfortunately, the people needed to create a thriving culture are often the same ones embattled with troubling workplace dynamics.

  • Nearly half of fundraisers will switch jobs within the next two years according to research published in 2022.
  • Almost a third of fundraisers will leave the fundraising field altogether according to survey data shared by the Chronicle of Philanthropy in 2019.
  • Workers are feeling burned out.
  • The vast majority feel tremendous pressure to succeed in their role.
  • People do not use their vacation time or they work while on vacation.
  • More than half feel unappreciated for their work.
  • Workers are hesitant to discuss personal challenges with supervisors.

Remote Work Can Lead to Burnout

Workers and managers often view remote work as the modern solution to these challenges, and most job seekers now look for remote-only jobs. Yet this flexibility often creates additional unanticipated challenges requiring attention. Most remote workers state that the flexibility results in longer hours and burnout, with no clear start or finish to their workday. Putting your people first will address these issues, add to your culture, and aid recruitment and retention efforts.

Focus on Performance AND People

Fundraising outcomes are ultimately the most important development performance measurements. An organization with the best leadership and culture cannot maintain its culture or keep its people if it cannot raise money. A similar outcome will befall an organization that only focuses on fundraising performance at the expense of its people. An organization that deploys an intentional leadership-driven cultural strategy with a people-first approach is most likely to see success in today’s workplace environment. St. Joseph Catholic Church, for example, was able to raise its sights, engage prospects, and secure major gifts when CCS leveraged their strong clergy leadership for fundraising.

Becoming people-first requires setting and codifying expectations of leaders and managers, and the remainder of the team, concerning work logistics, core behaviors, and professional growth, among other things.

Steps to Build a THRIVING NONPROFIT Culture

Work logistics must be defined and consistently applied to adapt to the organization’s particular culture and its team members.

Consider the Optimal Environment for Your Team’s Work

Thriving organizations often utilize a hybrid approach (e.g., 3 days in the office and 2 days remote). If you adopt this approach, consider how best to address mentorship and professional development.

Be Flexible

Recognize that your team members have lives outside of work and offer flexibility for personal circumstances. Thriving cultures recognize their people’s personal lives, offering support and flexibility in times of personal need.

Bring Your Team Together Occasionally

Consider some mandatory in-person meetings. Thriving cultures often require in-person meetings for team meetings, one-on-one check-ins with a supervisor, or team retreats. To avoid burnout, consider small steps, such as confining email to certain hours of the day, limiting evening communication and work when feasible, and considering email or meeting-free afternoons. An employee’s greatest barrier to effectively contributing to cultural development is often the unconstrained measures leadership creates through specific actions or standards.

Provide the Resources Necessary for Success

Invest in the tools needed for people to be successful. Thriving cultures anticipate and provide workplace tools and technology to support the modern workplace.

Continually Focus on Culture

Keep culture top of mind. Thriving cultures often create leadership-sponsored, staff-driven committees focusing on culture, interpersonal relationships, and overall workplace well-being, manifested through weekly newsletters, incorporation into staff retreats, internal clubs, and education opportunities.

What a THRIVING NONPROFIT Culture Looks Like

Core behaviors must also be articulated and modeled to effectively permeate into organizational culture. As leaders, team members, and colleagues, thriving cultures tend to:

  • Show compassion in their interactions with one another.
  • Monitor themselves and colleagues for burnout and other signs of need.
  • Encourage collaboration and connectivity in their interactions.
  • Check in regularly with their team and manager.
  • Create space to talk about workplace challenges.
  • Focus on relationships rather than simply tasks.

Regardless of work logistics and core behaviors, a people-first approach requires an emphasis on retaining the best people through professional growth opportunities and competitive compensation:

  • Provide stretch assignments and leadership development for all staff levels.
  • Be creative with job responsibilities and upward mobility.
  • Consider leadership exposure opportunities like executive coaching and the ability for people to join higher-level meetings.
  • Show professional pathways and growth opportunities regularly.
  • Encourage and provide time for employees to participate in community-building activities.

Modern Challenges Require Modern Leadership

As the workplace environment evolves, today’s “new normal” will quickly become outdated. Yet the strategies to support a thriving nonprofit culture in today’s “new normal” are fundamental building blocks that will likely support a thriving team in the “next normal” and beyond. An intentional people-first cultural strategy, led by and defined through exemplary leadership, will create the optimal opportunity to address modern workplace challenges.

More Insights


2023 Philanthropic Landscape, 12th Edition

August 29th, 2023

Featuring essential philanthropic research from all major sources in the industry, this exclusive report examines key themes in American philanthropy and the latest data on giving by US individuals, foundations, and corporations.


Independent School Fundraising: What Now, if No Campaign?

August 14, 2023

If conditions are not yet optimal for a campaign, consider these tactics to advance your school’s fundraising efforts.

Capital campaigns at independent schools are often seen as the primary fundraising strategy to drive strategic change. The potential impact of campaigns is high; however, the conditions of your school’s culture of philanthropy, development infrastructure, and donor readiness must be ripe for a campaign to be highly successful. Your examination of these standards may reveal that conditions are not yet optimal for a campaign. Understanding these barriers can reveal a campaign readiness blueprint with areas of opportunity.

Concentrated efforts to bolster your internal fundraising infrastructure and capacity and to connect with key prospects will drive momentum toward a future campaign and enrich your current fundraising success. These efforts could include strengthening your culture of philanthropy, establishing a major gifts initiative, top prospect cultivation, concentrated donor stewardship, or further developing your annual giving or planned giving programs.

Strengthen your culture of philanthropy

A primary consideration for every independent school’s fundraising is defining a culture of philanthropy within your school. Philanthropy is the lifeblood of the independent school model, influencing every aspect of the student and family experience. From faculty to programs and experiences, philanthropy propels every independent school. Welcoming each family within your school’s community into a culture of giving will provide everyone the opportunity to contribute to a legacy that will endure for generations.

Introduce philanthropy early in a prospective family’s journey by partnering with the admissions team to incorporate specific talking points during their tour of the school. Discuss philanthropy’s impact on the school during conversations about parental involvement opportunities. Further, leverage new parent events to make connections with the development team and introduce the director of development early on. Upholding and celebrating the role of philanthropy at your independent school through communications, programs, and individual relationships will maintain the importance of fundraising in the minds of families representing current and future donors.

Establish a major gifts initiative

A major gifts initiative that supports distinct one-off capital or programmatic projects that align with the strategic vision of the school can be a step in securing transformational gifts for specific goals. These special projects can draw attention to a unique need and further develop a culture of philanthropy within the school to achieve aspirational goals and highlight the significant impact that philanthropy has on a school culture and experience. Addressing one or two projects through a major gift initiative can create momentum within the school community and identify philanthropic champions for a future campaign. It’s rare that a donor’s largest gift is their first or even second gift, making a major gift initiative the perfect opportunity to solicit gifts for transformational impact while also identifying and cultivating lead gift prospects for a future campaign.

Start by prioritizing engaged donors with identified capacity who would be interested in making a major gift to support a special initiative. Stewarding these donors to bring them closer to the school and showcasing the impact of their giving will begin the process of cultivation for a major gift to a future campaign and secure them as a philanthropic champion of the school. Once secured, marketing major gift successes to the rest of your donor base and family community will celebrate achievements and establish trust in the school’s ability to secure major gift support from parents, alumni, grandparents, and others. Use the tangible results of generosity to demonstrate the footprint philanthropy can have on shaping the school experience.

Cultivate and brief top prospects

Cultivation tours or briefing blitzes can offer meaningful chances to advance relationships with your school’s top donors and prospects. Through these types of opportunities, your head of school can engage in personal conversations with top prospects about the school’s strategic vision and priorities. Those touchpoints will help deepen prospects’ connection to the school and their relationship with key school leaders. Additionally, they will help your head of school learn more about top prospects’ philanthropic interests and motivations and explore areas of overlap – important pre-campaign cultivation activities.

Key data points about your top prospects’ philanthropic activity, such as philanthropic motivations, top philanthropic causes, and board involvement will be assets in understanding whether your donor base will be receptive to supporting a future campaign.

Target your donor stewardship

Deepen relationships to the school and position the school to communicate a vision for engagement and giving by engaging your unique donor communities, such as alumni, through special giving societies. Effectively recognizing donors for their level of affinity for the school can build on their existing values and experiences to cultivate their connection and cement an understanding of the impact of their giving. Giving societies build a sense of community which in turn drives donors’ giving and cements their philanthropic commitment.

Refocus annual giving efforts

Drive donor participation through unrestricted giving by focusing on your school’s annual giving program and educating families about the importance of philanthropy. Annual giving appeals are a direct way to lay out your school’s fundraising priorities and establish a clear and cohesive vision of how fundraising impacts outcomes each year. In addition to written and electronic appeals, utilize giving days, mini-campaigns, and other annual giving efforts to foster school pride and a sense of community, and celebrate reaching collective goals. Finally, annual giving programs can be effective training for the development team, the development committee, school leadership, and the board in fundraising best practices, which will translate into future campaign success.

Consider bolstering gift planning

By establishing strong giving habits within your alumni base now, you set the stage for them to be planned giving prospects in the future. Each class’s graduation offers a window for engaging new alumni and launching their future engagement as lifelong donors. Establishing an immediate relationship with each new alumni class will significantly increase the likelihood of their philanthropic participation throughout their lifetime. Develop a post-graduation engagement plan to thoughtfully engage graduating classes and cement a lifelong affinity for giving back.

Each of these opportunities to tighten fundraising efforts can drive your independent school forward in near- and long-term development goals. Consider segmenting constituents by initiative to ensure the most direct strategy to connect with alumni, alumni families, parents, grandparents, or new graduates. Your donors and prospects should always come first in developing a plan to drive their engagement forward. Though your school may not be immediately prepared for a campaign, understanding and investing in opportunities for improvement will ensure short- and long-term successful outcomes.

More Insights


Enhance Your Year-End Fundraising With Gift Planning

August 31, 2023

Year-end fundraising campaigns are an opportunity to provide donors with every possible option to support your mission.


Campaign Readiness: Is Your Organization Prepared?

August 30, 2023

Wondering what to prepare as you embark on a campaign? From volunteer leadership to data analytics, this article offers key considerations and advice from four former CCS client partners on how to get started.

An iPad showing the front cover of CCS's August 2023

Raising philanthropic funds for endowments is crucial for the financial stability of educational institutions in today’s challenging economic and demographic landscape. This white paper will offer step-by-step information on how to:

  • Craft a compelling case for support that emphasizes the institution’s mission, priorities, and the impact of donations
  • Establish strong donor relationships through regular updates, engagement opportunities, and recognition
  • Invest wisely in educational endowments to weather market fluctuations and ensure consistent returns
  • Collaborate with development professionals and experts
  • Partner with experienced investment professionals and financial advisors to navigate long-term investments

Download this resource today to inform the launch and health of your school’s endowment.

Ackowledgements: We thank our thought partners, Koda Capital, for their partnership on co-creating the original version of this whitepaper for the Australian market.

More Insights


Enhance Your Year-End Fundraising With Gift Planning

August 31, 2023

Year-end fundraising campaigns are an opportunity to provide donors with every possible option to support your mission.


Campaign Readiness: Is Your Organization Prepared?

August 30, 2023

Wondering what to prepare as you embark on a campaign? From volunteer leadership to data analytics, this article offers key considerations and advice from four former CCS client partners on how to get started.

Tune in to learn about The Case for Endowment during this year’s Summer in Session, CCS’s annual fundraising webinar for independent school professionals. In this video, you will:

  • See the latest trends in independent school philanthropy
  • Understand why it’s important to have an endowment
  • Learn how to make the case for an endowment at your school


Bob Weston

Bob Weston

Senior Vice President

Aashika Patel

Aashika Patel

Executive Vice President

This innovative report provides statistical insights to show the power of planned gifts, the role of planned gifts in campaigns, and guidance for projecting planned gifts based on realization data.

The State of Planned Giving in Fundraising report grew out of a desire and need to answer questions from our nonprofit partners about legacy giving. It compiles data from multiple projects conducted by CCS Fundraising’s Gift Planning Practice Group, including two surveys of 600 nonprofits about legacy giving, and draws on key research from Giving USA, Dr. Russell James, and other sources. Key findings include:

  • Legacy gifts comprised more than 16% of overall fundraising and 11% of campaigns.
  • The average legacy gift is significantly more than the average annual gift.
  • Unknown legacy gifts are likely of considerable value.
  • No clear relationship exists between legacy gift revenue and endowment size.
  • Legacy societies are underutilized as a powerful donor acquisition and retention tool.

More Insights


Enhance Your Year-End Fundraising With Gift Planning

August 31, 2023

Year-end fundraising campaigns are an opportunity to provide donors with every possible option to support your mission.


2023 Philanthropic Landscape, 12th Edition

August 29th, 2023

Featuring essential philanthropic research from all major sources in the industry, this exclusive report examines key themes in American philanthropy and the latest data on giving by US individuals, foundations, and corporations.

Effectively incorporating a strong planned giving program beginning with legacy gifts helps your nonprofit build strong donor relationships, increase immediate and future cash, and establish a foundation for sustainability. During this webinar, our fundraising consultant experts explain the elements of gift planning culture and planned giving strategies that will set your organization up for success.


Hannah Yaritz

Hannah Yaritz

Senior Vice President

Jeremy Monty

Jeremy Monty

Vice President

Christopher Dake

Christopher Dake

Vice President

Christianna Luy

Christianna Luy

Vice President

M. Angel Flores

M. Angel Flores

Senior Vice President

Thomas Kissane

Thomas Kissane

Vice Chairman

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

On Getting Started in Gift Planning:

What are some best-practice solutions for organizations that are new to planned giving?

One first step is to send out a survey to your donors (volunteers, alumni, members, etc.) asking if they have included your nonprofit in their Will or Trust. This information can be used to help engage them further, thank them for their support, and learn more about why they made this commitment. A survey can also inform how your organization may allocate budget resources to this effort.

As noted by session participants, gift planning can be overwhelming.  We recommend taking this work in “bite-sized pieces.” One way to do this is to identify one project to focus on each week. The project should be manageable and easily accomplished within the dedicated time. Some examples might be:

  • Calling 10 donors to say “thank you.” 
  • Drafting your first gift planning survey.  
  • Determining how you might segment your donors based on their past giving and age.  
  • Watching this course for more ideas on how to start gift planning in 1-3 hours a week. 
  • If you have a major gift officer (or even if you are the only fundraiser!), add planned giving metrics to fundraising goals – this will help encourage collaboration, increase donor engagement activity, grow revenue, and support the hiring of additional staff. 
  • If you have dedicated volunteer leaders, form a peer committee that can help with developing a case for a planned giving program, marketing plan, and outreach strategy. 
  • The simplest action to take: ask for the gift. “DONOR, have you considered including ORGANIZATION in your Will?”
  • This short case study also describes how one organization partnered with CCS to launch its gift planning efforts.

Where can I find resources for integrating planned giving into the culture of my organization?

Education is a great tool for elevating planned giving within the culture of your organization. Sharing insights, datapoints, and impact stories related to planned giving with your organization’s decision makers and colleagues highlights the importance of this work. Consider demonstrating impact by documenting your first (or 100th!) bequest intention. Celebrate that documentation (and the future gift) with your team and leadership.

CCS’s Make the Case for (Greater!) Investment in Your Planned Giving Program video offers insights into instilling a gift planning culture into your organization and the role staff and volunteers alike play in gift planning.


What role do volunteers play in gift planning?

Staff who have gift-planning-specific roles typically either manage their own portfolio of donors who serve as a partner to major gift officers in asset-based fundraising.

Volunteers are helpful to serve as an advocate for the mission of your organization and the specific program for which a donor may be asked to support. Volunteers are also great planned gift prospects – would one of your best volunteers serve as a “practice” donor for a planned gift ask?

CCS’s Make the Case for (Greater!) Investment in Your Planned Giving Program video offers insights into instilling a gift planning culture into your organization and the role staff and volunteers alike play in gift planning.

Who is usually best positioned to build relationships with potential major gift and legacy gift prospects?

The Executive Director and staff should take responsibility for developing and maintaining the long-term relationships with the donor. That said, we recommend utilizing any resources possible to begin the conversation, including board relationships.

Board members are often great prospects themselves – consider educating them on the various types of gifts the organization accepts, how these gifts may offer benefits of income or tax relief to them, invite them to join your legacy society if they commit a deferred gift or major gift of assets, and encourage them to share their story with other donors to inspire additional giving.

How do I get started with donor cultivation and stewardship?

When thinking about cultivation and stewardship, we encourage asking the donor what is important to them. Utilize their insights to tailor a plan that’s important to them. Some donors are going to want (and need) higher touch points, others will want minimal contact.

For more helpful tips on donor cultivation, check out this article on leveraging annual giving and this article on cultivating prospects into donors.

ON Gift Acceptance Policies & Gift Management:

What is a windfall policy?

A windfall policy guides an organization when they receive a large unrestricted gift that they were not expecting. Creating this policy includes determining a certain percentage of the gift to be allocated to specific areas of the organization such as general operating, endowment, or capital improvements for immediate-use and longer-term use.

What organizations provide resources for updating or drafting gift acceptance policies?

The following organizations are known for offering best practices and guidelines:

Should my organization count both revocable and irrevocable legacy gifts during a campaign?

CCS recommends following CGP’s guidelines which have counting categories for immediate use (cash) gifts and pledges, revocable deferred gifts, and irrevocable deferred gifts during a campaign. They even offer tables to get you started.

Before getting into the counting, your organization should carefully consider what its fundraising needs are and what dollar amount (fundraising goal) would support those needs. If your organization has a greater immediate need, the cash or irrevocable deferred gift goals may be higher than the revocable deferred gift goal since revocable gifts can change, and deferred gifts generally take some time before they are realized and received as cash by the organization.

By counting all gifts, your organization is demonstrating inclusivity of donors at all gift levels and types. This enhances your gift planning culture and will increase revenue overall.

Can a revocable deferred gift (legacy gift, bequest) only be recognized in our financial books when paid?

Revocable gifts can only be counted in your financial books once they are paid (or realized.) Irrevocable gifts should be counted in financials once all proper documentation is complete. CCS recommends working closely with your finance team or accountant to discuss gifts of assets and deferred commitments.

While some gifts may not be able to be “booked” by finance, it is important you’re your fundraising office carefully tracks and notates these gifts in your database. This will support donor stewardship and recognition even if the gift is not part of the formal accounting process… yet!

How do you recommend navigating database constituent records if the ‘primary’ donor/member/volunteer dies, but we want to maintain a relationship with the ‘secondary’ partner/family/spouse?

We recommend maintaining the record in your database until the family asks otherwise. If they do ask you to remove the deceased donor from your database or outreach, respect their decision and archive the record. Some families will want to continue engagement to honor their loved one, or because they too are committed to your mission.

If your database is used for multiple purposes by different teams, consider finding a way to “tag” a constituent record exclusively for fundraising or gift planning to avoid confusion.

ON Prospects & Conversations:

How likely are annual donors, who have committed a legacy gift, to give to a campaign?

Research from Dr. Russell James shows that after a donor makes a legacy commitment, their annual giving increases by 75%, on average. Those same donors are also 17% more likely to give a major gift within two years after making their legacy commitment.

When asking for campaign gifts, we encourage blended gift requests to support immediate needs (cash, appreciated assets) and deferred gifts (bequest intention) to support the longer-term future.

What is the best age to begin planned gift conversations with donors?

Giving USA’s Leaving A Legacy report indicated that people first establish a Will in their mid-40s and include a charity in their Will for the first time in their early 50s. We recommend connecting with donors in their late 30s/early 40s with some of those initial conversations. For example, some colleges and universities are engaging their alumni in these age groups to ask for a very modest percentage (5% or less) of their estate be gifted to the school. That 5% may not be much today but by the time the gift is realized, it is likely to be considerably more.

What is the best way to ask someone for their birth date?

Organizations use a number of tactics to open the door for this question. For example:

  • Database updates – “I’m doing an update of our donor records. Would it be okay if I asked you for some updated information?”
  • Stewardship effort – “I’d like to start sending birthday cards to the donors I work with; would you be willing to share your birth date with me?”

Wealth screens may also pull birth date information if your organization utilizes this type of tool. White Pages is also a great tool for this information.

Keep in mind that this is personal information, and some donors may not be willing to share and for others it may not be appropriate to ask.

ON Deferred Gifts – Bequest & Legacy Gifts:

When are most wills and trusts updated?

Wills and Trusts are often updated closer to the death of the owner. Other data also indicates that when a charity is added in the earlier versions of the Will/Trust they will continue to stay within the documentation, especially if the organization does a great job with stewardship.

Should my organization accept gifts of real estate?

In general, real estate can be a great asset to accept as a philanthropic gift. Your gift acceptance policies and procedures should offer guidance as to what considerations your organization would take prior to accepting this asset. If real estate is not included in your policies currently, meet with your team, board, or other strategic partners to determine whether accepting real estate as gifts is right for your organization.

What is a blended gift proposal and are organizations using them?

Blended gift proposals are a tool used to ask a donor for one or multiple gifts in support of one or multiple needs within the organization. For gift planning, this usually means asking for a gift to support an immediate need (cash or asset today) and a longer-term initiative (gift for the future).

In the last healthcare campaign with which CCS Gift Planning Practice Group leader Christianna Luy assisted, the development team almost never asked for a multi-year campaign commitment unless it had a blended component. They wanted the organization to be stronger through the campaign, not just because of the campaign. Start easy by asking for cash and a bequest. For individuals with lots of stock, CCS encourages reading about a “charitable swap”—a powerful tool where the donor gifts the stock, saves capital gains taxes, and purchases the stock with the cash they would have gifted you.

How do I know if my nonprofit is ready to start a gift annuity program?

The American Council on Gift Annuities provides great insight on considerations for organizations who are interested in getting started with a gift annuity program.

Not all nonprofits can or should issue charitable gift annuities (CGAs) themselves. These gifts are guaranteed lifetime payments, and the organization must be willing to take on the responsibility and risk while being financially resilient enough to do so.

While establishing and managing a CGA program may not be a priority for a nonprofit based on experience and capacity, there are third-party vendors that can support these efforts, easing the burden on the nonprofit.


How long do organizations typically keep deceased legacy donors on their recognition lists?

Recognition lists are a great stewardship tool, help with donor management, and are a simple way to express gratitude. Recognition lists (as the “physical item”) vary. From a practical standpoint, consider cost when listing donors. If you are updating a physical donor wall every two years, you may consider having fewer names on the recognition list. However, if your recognition list is largely digital like an annual report, keep more names on the list.

It is most important that the donor has given you permission to include their name, or that they have indicated another way they would like to be recognized. Organizations will often note deceased donors with a symbol (such as: + or *) after their name. Other organizations will remove names but include a sentence along the lines of: “A special thanks to the 27 donors who have impacted ORGANIZATION since their passing.”

If you receive a gift from a donor who has passed and hasn’t indicated if they would like to be recognized, connect with their family, the estate executor, or any other personal contact you may be aware of to determine what would be most appropriate. If you are unable to access those close to the donor, follow practices aligned with other donors who have passed.

What are the best practices for including expected but not documented legacy gifts on a donor listing?

It is important to document expected gifts. In fact, recognition in an annual report could encourage some donors to document their legacy gift. Documentation helps the organization plan for its future, and it helps you steward the donor in the ways that are important to them.