How to Grow Your Charitable Gift Annuity Program


Has your charity’s gift annuity program gone stale? When was your last charitable gift annuity (CGA) written? In the current economic environment, some charities are busier than ever writing new gift annuities. The donors are excited about gifting funds to their favorite charity, receiving a charitable deduction, and receiving lifetime payments at the same time. The charities are thrilled to have motivated donors who will likely make other gifts to the organization in the future.

Here are some suggestions on how to grow your charitable gift annuity program.

  1. Targeted Marketing – The key group of individuals who write charitable gift annuities are donors in their mid-70s. Segment your database for focused marketing to these individuals. 
  2. Capture your audience – Professor Russell James, Ph.D. has studied donors’ interest with using specific marketing language. His studies suggest that instead of using the term “charitable gift annuity” in the marketing piece, it is best to use language like “gifts that pay you income for life.” 1 Note: Instead of ‘income for life’ we suggest using the term ‘payments for life’. Charitable gift annuities should not be compared to investment options or use investment terminology.
  3. Marketing for ‘repeat business’ – Some organizations send birthday cards to their existing annuitants. You could accompany a birthday card and note of thanks for past support with a CGA illustration. An annual letter to existing annuitants asking them to consider writing another annuity can also be productive.
  4. Newsletters/electronic newsletters – An advertisement in a donor newsletter with the right wording may capture some new annuity donors.
  5. Social media ads – Facebook-, Twitter-, and Instagram-savvy donors may be reached through social media.
  6. Lunch and Learns – As retirement homes and restaurants are reopening, these meetings are now possible.
  7. Deferred annuities for younger donors – Writing annuities with younger donors will improve the diversity of your gift annuity pool. Your organization can defer the first payment until the annuitants reach age 65.
  8. An emphasis on growing the program – Preparing the planned giving and finance offices for new annuities is important. Remind your planned giving team of the benefits of charitable gift annuities.
  9. State Compliance for Issuing CGAs – Before launching a growth campaign for your organization’s charitable gift annuity program, make sure the program is compliant with state registrations and filing applicable notifications on an ongoing basis. Some states ask for a notification letter only. However, states like California and New York and others require your organization to apply before issuing CGAs. Cornerstone can support your organization with state CGA compliance.

Deciding to expand your charitable gift annuity program is also a step in the right direction for growing your overall organization’s outright gifts. Cornerstone Management conducted a study of several organization’s planned giving programs in 2018. Cornerstone found that “on average, donors who had participated in planned giving programs with a charity gave 318% larger individual immediate outright gifts than did donors who had not participated in any such planned giving program.”2   The bonus feature of a planned gift is the ongoing relationship the charity has with the donor. As the donor receives payments, the charity remains in contact with the donor. A donor who creates a planned gift with a charity believes in the mission of the organization and as the planned gift impact study shows, the donor may remember the charity with a bequest or an outright gift in the future.

Learn more about Cornerstone Management’s services: OCIO, Planned Giving, Gift and Estate Consulting, and Asset Management Consulting services.

1.  “What’s Working Today and What’s Coming Tomorrow – New Results from the Lab and the Latest Demographics in Planned Giving” Presentation by Professor Russell James III, J.D., Ph.D., CFP®

2  “Cornerstone Management Planned Giving Programs Impact Study” 2018 by Cornerstone Management, Inc.

Andrea Preissler headshot
Andrea Preissler