Planned Giving Strategies

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on July 11, 2023

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Planned Giving Strategies Overview

Planned giving is a strategic approach to philanthropy that enables individuals to make significant donations to non-profit organizations, either during their lifetime or as part of their estate plan.

Planned giving can provide numerous benefits to both the donor and the receiving organization, such as tax advantages and the satisfaction of leaving a lasting legacy.

Types of Planned Giving Strategies

Types of Planned Giving Strategies.


Simple Bequests

A simple bequest is a provision in a will or living trust that designates a specific sum of money, a percentage of the estate, or particular assets to be donated to a non-profit organization upon the donor's death.

Residuary Bequests

A residuary bequest allocates the remainder of an estate after all other bequests, expenses, and taxes have been paid, to one or more non-profit organizations.

Contingent Bequests

Contingent bequests take effect only if certain conditions are met, such as the death of a primary beneficiary before the donor.

Charitable Gift Annuities

A charitable gift annuity is a contract between a donor and a non-profit organization in which the donor makes a gift of cash or securities, and the organization agrees to pay the donor a fixed income for life.

Immediate Gift Annuities

An immediate gift annuity begins making payments to the donor shortly after the initial gift is made.

Deferred Gift Annuities

A deferred gift annuity delays the start of income payments until a future date chosen by the donor, typically at retirement.

Charitable Remainder Trusts

Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts (CRATs)

A CRAT is a type of trust that provides a fixed income to the donor or other beneficiaries for a specified period of their lifetime, with the remaining assets going to a non-profit organization upon the trust's termination.

Charitable Remainder Unitrusts (CRUTs)

A CRUT is similar to a CRAT, but the income payments are based on a fixed percentage of the trust's assets, revalued annually.

Charitable Lead Trusts

Charitable Lead Annuity Trusts (CLATs)

A CLAT provides a fixed income to a non-profit organization for a specified period, with the remaining assets passing to the donor's heirs upon the trust's termination.

Charitable Lead Unitrusts (CLUTs)

A CLUT is similar to a CLAT but provides a variable income to the non-profit organization based on a fixed percentage of the trust's assets revalued annually.

Donor-Advised Funds

A donor-advised fund (DAF) is an account established with a sponsoring organization, typically a public charity or community foundation, that allows donors to make charitable contributions, receive an immediate tax deduction, and recommend grants to non-profit organizations over time.

Life Insurance and Retirement Plan Gifts

Naming a Charity as a Beneficiary

Donors can designate a non-profit organization as the beneficiary of their life insurance policy or retirement plan, such as an IRA or 401(k).

Gifting an Existing Policy

A donor can transfer ownership of an existing life insurance policy to a non-profit organization, which becomes both the owner and beneficiary of the policy.

Gifting a New Policy

A donor can purchase a new life insurance policy with a non-profit organization as the owner and beneficiary and make tax-deductible premium payments.

Gifts of Real Estate or Other Tangible Assets

Outright Gifts

Donors can make outright gifts of real estate, artwork, or other tangible assets to non-profit organizations, which can then use or sell the assets to support their mission.

Retained Life Estate Gifts

A donor can gift a personal residence or farm to a non-profit organization while retaining the right to live on the property for their lifetime or a specified term. Upon the donor's death or the end of the term, the organization assumes full ownership of the property.

Bargain Sale Gifts

A donor can sell a property or other tangible assets to a non-profit organization at a price below fair market value, creating a charitable gift equal to the difference between the sale price and the asset's fair market value.

Developing a Planned Giving Strategy

Steps in Developing a Planned Giving Strategy

Identifying Personal and Financial Goals

Philanthropic Objectives

Consider your personal values, interests, and the causes or organizations you wish to support through your planned giving strategy.

Tax Planning

Explore the tax benefits of various planned giving strategies to maximize your tax savings and the impact of your gifts.

Retirement Planning

Evaluate how planned giving strategies can complement your retirement income and financial security.

Legacy Planning

Determine how you want to be remembered and the lasting impact you hope to create through your philanthropic efforts.

Assessing the Current Financial Situation

Net Worth

Review your assets and liabilities to understand your overall financial position and the resources available for planned giving.

Income Sources

Identify your current and future sources of income to ensure that your planned giving strategy aligns with your financial needs.

Existing Estate Plan

Examine your existing estate plan to determine how planned giving can be integrated or updated to meet your philanthropic goals.

Selecting the Appropriate Planned Giving Vehicle(s)

Choose the planned giving strategies that best align with your personal and financial goals, as well as the needs of your chosen non-profit organization(s).

Engaging Professional Advisors

Financial Planner

Consult with a financial planner to review your overall financial plan and explore planned giving strategies that fit your needs and objectives.


Seek legal advice to draft or revise your will, trust, or other estate planning documents to include your planned giving intentions.

Tax Advisor

Work with a tax professional to understand the tax implications and benefits of your planned giving strategy.

Communicating Intentions to Chosen Non-Profit Organization(s)

Inform your chosen non-profit organization(s) of your planned giving intentions, so they can plan for the future and recognize your generosity.

Implementing and Monitoring the Planned Giving Strategy

Establishing the Chosen Planned Giving Vehicle(s)

Set up the legal and financial structures necessary to implement your chosen planned giving strategy, such as creating a trust or donor-advised fund.

Managing and Funding the Gifts

Ensure that your gifts are properly managed and funded according to your planned giving strategy, including making regular contributions or premium payments, if applicable.

Regularly Reviewing and Updating the Strategy

Life Events

Reevaluate your planned giving strategy in light of major life events, such as marriage, divorce, retirement, or the birth of a child.

Changes in Financial Situation

Review your planned giving strategy if your financial situation changes significantly, such as receiving an inheritance or experiencing a significant change in income.

Changes in Tax Laws

Stay informed of changes in tax laws that may affect your planned giving strategy and consult with your tax advisor as needed.

Changes in Non-profit Organization Status

Monitor the status of your chosen non-profit organization(s) to ensure they continue to align with your philanthropic goals and maintain their tax-exempt status.


Planned giving is a strategic approach to philanthropy that allows individuals to make meaningful contributions to non-profit organizations while benefiting from potential tax savings and other financial advantages.

A well-designed planned giving strategy involves understanding various types of planned giving vehicles, such as bequests, charitable gift annuities, and charitable trusts, and selecting the most suitable option based on personal and financial goals.

Regularly reviewing and updating your strategy in response to life events, financial changes, and evolving tax laws is crucial to ensure its ongoing effectiveness.

Engaging professional advisors, such as financial planners, attorneys, and tax advisors, can help in implementing and maintaining a successful planned giving strategy that not only maximizes your philanthropic impact but also creates a lasting legacy for future generations.

Planned Giving Strategies FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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