Comedian Milton Berle once deftly stated “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”

For nonprofits looking to boost fundraising efforts, that door is an effective Planned Giving program.

The opportunity for donors to come knocking is immense.

Russell James, the smart researcher at Texas Tech University, estimates nonprofits are losing out on as much as 90 percent of what’s available to them through planned gifts simply because they’re not promoting planned gifts.

The great news is that this isn’t a complex construction project. It’s a DIY! All you need is one easy tool and a vision for what’s possible.

The key is to start simple. Rather than promoting hard-to-understand methods like charitable lead unitrusts, it’s best to encourage your donors to make a simple bequest.

After all, everybody needs a will. People understand what they are, so there’s no education barrier. Folks take comfort knowing they can change their minds, though hardly anyone does. Even better, there’s no lifetime cost to your donors.

Taking this first step can (but need not), lead to more sophisticated future options such as life insurance ownership, charitable gift annuities and charitable remainder trusts.

Over time, there are plenty of ways to expand your Planned Giving program—if you choose to.

But the unequivocal place to begin your program is simple gifts by will. 

Start there, and you’ve built a door to long-term financial stability that your donors will knock on.