8 Steps for a Planned Giving Conversation

We all know that planned giving is important for your church’s finances. Aside from regular, gentle reminders, the best way for your church to receive a planned gift is to ask for it. Over the past few months, we’ve shared how to identify top prospects and how to prepare to make an ask. (If you missed either of those articles, take a quick look and come back.) Now it’s time for our final article in this series, which shares our roadmap for the meeting in which you directly ask for a planned gift.

  1. Turn your phone off. This signals your conversation partner: “I care about you, and you have my full attention.”

  2. Mirror their facial expressions and body language if at any point you’re feeling physically awkward or self-conscious.

  3. Ask open-ended questions. Focus the early questions on their relationship with the church: How has your faith changed since you first joined the church? What part of worship has been most meaningful to you? What’s your fondest memory of our community? How have you seen our church improve people’s lives in this town? Once you paint a picture of how important the church is to them, turn to the future: How do you think you can make the biggest difference moving forward? What kind of legacy do you want to leave? How would you like us to remember you? Center your conversation on their life, their faith, and their legacy. Listen intently, and take notes if it helps you to stay focused.

  4. When it’s your turn, speak slowly. Never interrupt your conversation partner. Speak slowly and deliberately, and take time to pause as needed to find the right words. This signals your conversation partner that you are competent and thoughtful.

  5. Breathe. If you begin to feel nervous, or you find your mental wheels spinning as you plan what you’ll say next, concentrate for a moment on slowing your breathing down. Just a few deep breaths can help most people regain their composure. You could also repeat a breath prayer, like: “God’s plan.” Or you could imagine yourself breathing in hope and breathing out peace. Whatever you do, make sure it’s quick and easy so that you can stay fully present with your conversation partner.

  6. Make “the ask.” Paint a picture that connects your conversation partner’s desires with your church’s potential. Use visionary language. Help them feel like they can be part of something bigger than themselves. Finally, ask in clear language, such as: “can we count on your financial support?” Or, “would you include this ministry in your will?” Asking directly might feel uncomfortable, but if you’ve built a trusting relationship, they will feel the care in your question.

  7. Allow for silence. After you ask, stop talking and wait for a response. It may take your conversation partner a long moment to consider your request, and you should respect them enough to give them that time. You’ll have the urge to fill the silence. Don’t.

  8. Thank them immediately and sincerely. If the answer is no, thank them for understanding why you had to ask, and for being close enough to you and the church that you felt comfortable asking. If the answer is yes, ask them how they’d like to be recognized for this gift, and how they’d like you to share the story. Close your meeting in prayer together and thank God out loud for their faithful witness. Then put a handwritten card in the mail, and put a plan in motion to provide whatever recognition they asked for.

By Julia Frisbie, NWUMF Associate Director