Planned Giving and Endowment Support

Stewardship coaching for endowment programs


According to recent surveys, 51% Americans aged 55 to 64 do not have a will.

That may be less true in Unitarian Universalist congregations, as our members tend to be better educated in financial matters than the general population. Yet many of our congregants may not have wills or estate plans, and some who do are looking for ways to make longer range or legacy gifts to the congregation, and want to be remembered by us after they have gone.

In order to gain these gifts, congregations need to set up systems to receive them, like an established endowment. To ask for planned gifts, congregations need programs to communicate about these opportunities, and people to do the asking.

Sadly, although many congregations have some parts of an endowment or planned giving program in place, few have a full and sustainable program up and running.

The hallmarks of a fully functioning planned giving program are:

  • An established endowment, with a defined and inspiring purpose, policies, and investment plans
  • The ability to speak to these purposes, policies, and plans in light of our religious values
  • A communication strategy and associated materials
  • Educational elements about long range financial, legal, and tax planning; and the options available in these realms
  • A way to honor past givers, and include current members who have committed a legacy gift
  • Testimonials from a range of people who have made this gift
  • Physical honoring spaces, architectural elements, or plaques to celebrate these gifts
  • A group charged with managing these structures and processes, and asking for these gifts


  • Affords an opportunity to address concerns of the whole of the members’ lifespan
  • Is part of congregational support for a pastoral conversation about broader life decisions
  • Helps families find beneficial and comprehensive financial, legal, and tax planning
  • Creates a program geared toward honoring our foremothers and forefathers
  • Helps identify people who have made planned gifts to the congregation, so they can be thanked, as per their preferences
  • Provides financial resources to the congregation that can have a significant impact over time. In fact, can transform the congregation through investments in innovative ministries or programmatic expansion
  • Compared to other resource-gathering activities, is low intensity and requires relatively few, yet dedicated, volunteers
  • Builds on established programs and traditions, some of which might already be in place in the congregation
  • Enables congregants to invest in the future of Unitarian Universalism and their congregation, ensuring that our beloved faith communities will thrive and prosper for generations to come

What we Offer:

We provide expert advice and assistance to establish strong planned giving and endowment programs, and offer ongoing support as these programs mature over time. Although an endowment and planned giving program are related to each other, their management is usually done by two groups: an endowment committee and a planned giving team.

The Stewardship Team can support the initial setting of the endowment, with its key documents. After that an endowment committee is usually charged with tracking funds, investment decisions, and reporting. Our consultation for the planned giving team starts with an orientation of the lay leaders on the processes of a planned giving program.

We will also work with them to understand the sensitivities around talking to people about legacy, about best practices and opportunities, and engaging other functions of the congregation.

We help review or create documents, timelines, programs, worship, and other plans related to this initiative. We can help the ministers and staff to understand their role in the process. We support the training of lay people who can ask members to consider the congregation with their long range plans, provide advice about approaching specific people, and make recommendations for coordinating with associated professionals (financial planners, tax planners, lawyers) during program implementation and sustainment cycles.

When considering the judicious use of lay leaders to oversee the investment of the endowment, a congregation may consider the the Unitarian Universalist Association Common Endowment (UUCEF). The Stewardship Team supports this as an option for many individual congregation endowments, as the UUCEF has an admirable performance record and using the UUCEF frees up lay leaders to invest their time and energy in encouraging member participation and in allocating program resources, rather than attempting to manage investments.

Congregations benefit from having an outside consultant to help them launch an endowment and to initiate or rehabilitate a planned giving program. As this is more of an enduring, rather than a time delimited campaign, an investment rather than fundraising mindset is helpful. Consulting support for establishing, educating, and mentoring the committee will ensure its success.