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What is a Planned Gift?

By Ken Sloane

Stock bible study with coffee

(Part 2 in a 10-part series, Beyond the Budget, by Donald Joiner and Ken Sloane.)

The term “planned gift” may seem strange to you. Who would give a gift that they did not plan to give? Many colleges and universities have used the term to identify gifts that are given over a particular dollar amount or in a form that is not immediately available for use by the institution. Often, these institutions have used these gifts to increase the size of their endowments or to build new buildings. Because of the aggressive promotion of this type of giving by large institutions, people may get the mistaken idea that this gift is only for the very wealthy or that it is not a gift that would interest their church.

A planned gift for the church can be defined as one that is given outside the regular offering or for purposes beyond the day-to-day needs of the church. It can take many forms. Your congregation may define a planned gift in relation to the purpose for which it is given. It could be a gift to a memorial fund or a gift given in honor of an individual or a family.

Quite often, a planned gift is defined by the type of resource that is given. It is often given from resources beyond an individual’s checkbook. It may be from accumulated assets, such as stocks and bonds or from life insurance or real estate. Because of this, planned gifts tend to be larger than gifts that are given more routinely. However, the promotion of planned gifts provides an excellent opportunity for the congregation to be educated in the understanding that gift giving is a lifelong response to God's consistent love and concern for us. God’s love is not just for the moment, but forever!

The motivation to make such a gift is a direct response to an understanding of stewardship in its best form. To give something that is the result of one's life work is to affirm that life itself is a sacred gift from God. Our accumulations are testimony to God's goodness, and giving is an appropriate response to affirm the source of these riches. The congregation that fails to establish giving opportunities beyond the offering plate runs the risk of teaching an incomplete understanding of stewardship.

Planned giving is not a replacement for, but a complement to, the current giving program. Congregations that focus on the budget rather than ministry see planned giving as a luxury that they will get to someday. A focus on the immediate needs may unintentionally become fund raising instead of a comprehensive lifelong stewardship program. The congregation that will take the time to implement a planned gifts program as an integral part of its ministry will affirm the understanding many of us affirmed in the traditional membership vows that stated, “The church will be preserved to the end of time. . .”

Additionally, the benefits of a well-constructed planned gifts program can provide a source of funding for ministry that expands the role of the church in the community and even the world. Evangelism in the best sense of the word can be furthered by funds that are available from gifts given to perpetuate our Christian tradition.

Ken Sloane is the Director of Stewardship & Generosity for Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church.