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Recent surveys indicate that in America:

  • 65 out of every 100 people say they are Christian
  • 45 out of every 100 people say they attend religious services once or twice a month

While these numbers are down over previous decades, it still indicates that a whopping number of folks are part of the religious landscape.

Let me share another statistic I heard recently:

  • 95% of all bequests and estate planning gifts go to organizations OTHER THAN THE CHURCH.

That means that nearly half of Americans go to church, sing at church, give when the plate is passed, and talk about the preacher at Sunday lunch.  However, when it comes time to pass their wealth on to worthy organizations they almost never put the church on the list.

That is an amazing and disturbing statistic—on two fronts.  First, folks who attended and gave so generously over the years are being robbed of the opportunity to do good at their passing.  Second, the amount of money that the church is NOT receiving could be large enough to cover budget shortfalls, deferred maintenance, and possibly even large capital projects.

So what do the 95% of organizations do in order to garner the lion’s share of bequests?

  • They have the conversation. Someone actually visits the giver (often several times) and understands what is important to them.  They structure a potential gift to support something close to the giver’s heart.
  • The gift is something that supports the giver’s dream for making a difference—not the organization’s dream.
  • The gift is the result of a relationship not just with the organization, but with the person asking. Non-profits often say they don’t do “fund” development, but “relationship” development.  They are smart.
  • They don’t assume that gift planning is only for the wealthy. Wealthy is a subjective term.  Most of us will pass something on to the next generation.
  • They take time to educate their givers on the kinds of legal and financial vehicles that provide givers with the options they need.
  • They ask for a gift. I repeat, they ask for a gift.

Is your church in the plan?

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For ideas on gift planning in your church, click here or call 877-391-8811 (toll-free) to let us know.
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Glenn Howell
Director of Development
United Methodist Foundation of Indiana