A Pastor’s Guide To Implement Legacy Giving at Church

Legacy Giving // July 25, 2014

In this series on legacy generosity, I have shared with you a top ten list, a $1 M story, my family’s own personal legacy giving journey, the language of legacy giving and reasons for giving a legacy gift.

Let’s wrap up this series with something practical, shall we?

Let’s talk about actually implementing a legacy giving strategy!

What constitutes an effective legacy strategy?

Let’s look at the core components and the practical steps to help you build a legacy of legacy giving at your church.

Don’t Do It Alone – Build a Legacy Team

  • This team of leaders will take responsibility for the promotion, receipt and management of various funds along with active solicitation of potential donors.
  • Ideally, this team will involve a few people (staff and laity) who have a passion in this area.
  • People on this team should have already included the church in their own will or estate plan.
  • A staff member should be assigned to work with the team and should have legacy generosity added to their area of responsibility.
  • The team should meet regularly to design, implement, and manage the legacy strategy.

Make Your Case

  • A case statement should be prepared that explains how legacy funds will be used in the life of the church. This statement becomes the foundation upon which all other communication materials are based.
  • It is wise to use legacy funds for purposes beyond the general fund. Legacy funds without a designated purpose will not usually be embraced by your constituency, so be sure to set them apart. Earmark them for missions, outreach, new ministry starts, capital projects, repairs and facility maintenance.

Establish a Gift Acceptance Policy/Procedure

  • This policy states what gifts will and will not be received.
  • This policy should explain the procedure the church will follow to procure the gift, and what steps will be taken prior to agreement to receive the gift. (For example, you do not want to receive a gift of real estate prior to conducting an environmental study.)

Engage Outside Counsel

  • You will want to engage outside professionals who have the knowledge to educate your members about the possibilities surrounding legacy giving and how those gifts can impact tax strategies for the donor.
    You must find a professional who is in the front of the room in an educational role, not a marketing or sales one! It is vitally important that the person leading the seminar is engaging, and able to converse on this complex topic in a way that is easy to understand.
  • Firms like PhilanthroCorp exist to serve ministries in this area. One advantage to PhilanthroCorp’s process on retainer with the church, is that they will educate your people through seminars and printed information, and they will engage in one-on-one conversation with couples who are interested in pursuing further – all at no cost to the couple.
  • I can’t emphasize enough the importance of selecting great counsel. Many churches have thwarted their attempts at establishing legacy giving by inviting a tax or accounting professional in to lead a seminar, who does not have the engaging personality to motivate people with an easy-to-understand presentation. If it’s boring, too technical and/or difficult to comprehend, your people will not have the interest to pursue further conversations.

Prepare Communication Materials

  • Develop and distribute a legacy gifts print piece that is customized to the church’s unique mission and vision. It should explain how legacy funds will be used to further the mission. Include in this piece the types of gifts that will be received.
  • Produce a video regarding the impact of legacy giving. Include stories from those who have already made a planned gift to the church.
  • Include all printed materials and video on a legacy area of the church’s website.

Promote the Conversation

  • Plan and implement effective legacy seminars for your members that address life issues. Topics might include retirement planning, long-term care, wills, trusts, and life income.
  • Do not make the mistake of assuming this conversation is just for those aged 50 and older. While you certainly want to include them in the process, also focus on your young married couples. Remembe,  65% of Americans do NOT have a will. Your young parents need to understand the importance of having a will that protects their children.
  • Plan and carry out a Legacy Weekend in worship services, communicating the value that legacy gifts add to the ongoing mission of the church.
  • The Lead Pastor must share their experience in establishing the church in their personal estate plan. Yes pastor, that means you go first on this journey. Generous churches are led by generous pastors!

Create an Honorary Group

  • Establish a “Heritage Society” or something similar, made up of members and former members who have placed the church in their will, estate plan, or as beneficiary of various financial products.

Maintain Focus

  • Continually use the church’s communication vehicles to provide ongoing information and education on legacy giving strategies and donor benefits. Include information in your printed materials, e-news, printed newsletters, website, and videos. Include live testimonies in worship and within sermon illustrations.
  • Share stories as new donors complete their legacy gift, stating the impact the generous gift will have on the church’s ability to further its mission.
  • Celebrate ministry “wins” that were made possible through the generous legacy gifts of your church family.

Pastor – You Go First

  • As the chief visionary in your ministry, you will want to walk this road first before asking others in your church to take the journey. And I’m not talking about just the creation or review of a will. You will want to go through the complete discovery process of what your personal estate plan might look like with a charitable gift included. You may be surprised at what kind of gift you can leave behind. Once having gone through the process personally,  you can lead from a stronger and more passionate perspective.
  • Remember, generous churches are led by generous pastors.

Well, there you have it, step by step. I encourage you today to lead your church in this area. It will make a big difference!

Do you have a legacy strategy already in place? If so, I would love to hear how it’s working for you! If you desire an in-depth conversation on establishing a legacy generosity strategy for your church, please contact me. I would be honored to serve you.

About Rusty Lewis

As a church leader, there’s nothing more frustrating than not having the funding to do what God’s calling you to do. But when you think about trying to address that problem, you feel overwhelmed, you dread the potential pushback from your congregation, and you’re not sure where to turn for help. Over the last 18 years, I’ve helped more than 120 churches close the gap between their current financial reality and what they need to move forward in ministry.

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