Coronavirus and Fundraising – Planned Giving

Coronavirus and Fundraising – Planned Giving


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


First off, I hope that you, your family, and everyone in your orbit is well and stays that way. Hunker down, wash your hands, stay six feet away from others. Stay home and stay well.


Last week I sat in on a planned giving webinar, billed as planned giving strategies in the context of COVID. Much of the presentation was devoted to underlining what I have been saying here these past few weeks.


  • Now is the time to reach out to donors in very personal ways.
  • Use the phone, use personal cards, and personal email to connect, because they still care about how YOU are doing.
  • Land conservation is still important, land trust mission and work are still relevant, and your commitment to it is unwavering.
  • Planned giving donors are major gift donors.


Still, I learned a lot. Several ideas popped for me that are worth passing along.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that people are looking right now for planning giving information on the websites of organizations they care about. So NOW would be a good time to review the information you have on your website. Is it easy to find? Is it clear?

The great majority of planned gifts are either bequest gifts or named beneficiaries of life insurance policies, retirement accounts, or similar. The information people need to know is your organization’s complete legal name and business address. If that information is not easy to find and clearly spelled out, NOW would be a great time to make it right.


Who should people call for more information? I’ve found several websites that refer questions to an employee who no longer works for the land trust. NOW would be a good time to update that information.


Right now some people are finding it easier to make gifts directly from their IRAs (and avoid paying taxes on that money), gifts of stock or other appreciated assets (and avoid paying taxes on the appreciation), or gifts from Donor Advised Funds than making gifts of cash.


There is emerging data that suggests that planned gift attrition – donors who rewrite their wills to shuffle the organizations they support – may be significant. The presenters were suggesting that it might be as much as 40-50%. Organizations that do not prioritize maintaining strong relationships with their donors are at risk in this reshuffling – they may get reshuffled all the way out. This has always been a possibility – planned gifts are usually revocable – but I had never before seen any numbers associated with it.


The presenters addressed the CARES Act, too. Most of us are aware that 2020 cash gifts to charity of $300 per taxpayer ($600 per couple) will be deductible (above the line) for taxpayers who do not itemize their taxes.

What is less well known is that the limit on gifts of cash for those taxpayers who do itemize has been removed for the 2020 tax year. Here’s what this means: Donors who itemize can deduct donations to charity, but their ability to deduct those gifts has historically been limited to 50-60% of their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). This year – 2020 – that limit is essentially 100% of their AGI. They can give away everything they earn as income and pay no income taxes. This is important for those donors who may want to bundle their giving – make two years’ worth of gifts this year and itemize, and then make no gifts next year and take the standard deduction.


Finally, be on the lookout for donors who might be interested in making different plans. Someone in the middle of a capital campaign pledge who might be willing to remove the restrictions from their pledge payment for this year only. Someone who set up a family foundation or a DAF under the assumption that their family might be interested in helping make charitable gift decisions, only to learn later that it was more work than they bargained for. Or someone ready to convert a conservation easement into an outright gift of their fee interest.


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One last thing –

Like many others, I am busy reimagining my consulting business – assessment, planning, training, and coaching – without traveling. Last weekend Nancy Moore and I (Conservation Consulting Group) conducted an organizational needs assessment work session using ZOOM – six hours, break out groups, contemporaneous note-taking – you name it.

While certainly not ideal, I can tell you that it worked. And it’s probably going to need to these next few years. If you have any thoughts for me, including possible topics you’d like to see addressed in this blog, please reach out. Leave a comment, or contact me directly at David (at) DevelopmentforConservation (dot) com.

Love to hear from you.


Cheers, and have a great week!



Photo by Free Nature Stock from StockSnap



Related Posts:

Three Basic Steps, and Three Enhancements, for Your Planned Giving Program

One Small Idea That Could Make A Big Difference in Your Planned Giving Program



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  • Trish Aldrich
    Posted at 07:14h, 23 April

    Hi David, Great stuff as always. Any data/anecdotal info on whether people are reviewing their estate plans now, with all their found time, more time at home, and more time to tackle stuff that’s been on the To Do list for ages? Thanks!

    • David Allen
      Posted at 07:55h, 23 April

      I ran across a study from 2007 that concluded that 5% of people who had left a charity in their estate plans would remove it before they died. So the “estate planning attrition” of 40-50% mentioned in the webinar I referred to represents a significant uptick since 2007. I suspect that some of this is related to shifting priorities based on economic concerns and market fluctuations, including the recession in 2009-2010. But some, as you suggest, is related to people having extra time on their hands also. That is the only information I have right now.
      Regardless, it speaks to the need for strong donor stewardship programs. If people are opening up their estate plans, you don’t want your land trust to be one of the charities they haven’t heard from recently.


  • Carol Abrahamzon
    Posted at 18:50h, 21 April

    ZOOM is great but hard on the data limits for some of us.

  • Creal Zearing
    Posted at 09:01h, 21 April

    David, can you confirm that couples can take a $600 deduction? As of yesterday, I had read that that was unclear based on the rules that exist currently.

    • David Allen
      Posted at 09:18h, 21 April

      Great question, and you are correct that it is unclear in the Act. I’m reporting here what the presenters passed along during the webinar. It seems likely that the $300 per taxpayer will be interpreted as per person as opposed to per household. However, as always, the best advice is to seek your own professional legal and tax advice.


  • David Lillard
    Posted at 08:45h, 21 April

    This is terrific practical advice. Thanks!

  • reneecarey
    Posted at 07:50h, 21 April

    Lots of good stuff to ponder David. Thank you for making us think. : – )