Catholic School Planned Giving Basics: Part One

Terry Fairholm Terry Fairholm, President at Advancement Partners

This is the first in a brief series of planned giving blogs we will do. Stay tuned for the next posts when we will outline the action steps to take, the frequency and formats of communication, planned giving during a capital campaign, how to include planned giving in your development plan, and planned giving case studies.

As a professional in the Catholic education world, I'm certain you would agree with me that, to a significant extent, the future of Catholic education is dependent on endowment. Major cash gifts to a school's endowment are certainly welcome, greatly appreciated and can have an immediate impact. However, there is another form of philanthropic gift that can significantly increase a school’s endowment – planned gifts.

Planned gifts come in varied forms but to simplify, they are future-oriented gifts that are realized upon the death of the donor. Since Catholic schools have, over the past many years, been focused on upgrading facilities to remain competitive, planned gifts have been overlooked to a certain degree. It is common knowledge that we are currently in the midst of the greatest transfer of wealth in history. Accordingly, creating an assertive, systematic approach to planned giving should be a critical objective for all Catholic school advancement operations.

The fundamental element of an effective planned giving program is awareness. Informing your constituents of the opportunity to support the school’s mission by leaving a legacy and educating them of the importance of endowment for the future of the school are the two key components of the messaging. Once the message has been formulated and an overall concept developed, the next step is identifying primary prospects.

The first step in identifying the best planned giving prospects is to do a database extraction of those constituents – we recommend focusing primarily on alumni - who have a consistent giving history. You can customize your definition of ‘consistent’ based on your school’s unique fundraising experience. Taking the identification process further, age, and more highly wealth-rated people (getting your database screened for wealth is imperative!) round out the prospect base.

The next step in the planned giving process is to communicate with the prospects you have identified. This requires a concise planned giving brochure explaining the “Legacy” Society and the specific ways to make a planned gift accompanied by a one page personalized introduction letter.

Please consider attending our Summer Seminar at the University of Notre Dame August 4-6 2021 when we will focus exclusively on capital campaign implementation of which planned giving will be a component.

Posted on: May 18, 2021

Photo by Romain V on Unsplash

Terry Fairholm

Terry Fairholm


Terry has 32 years of development experience. He began his development career in 1986 serving as Regional Director of Development during the University of Notre Dame’s $450 million "Strategic Moment" capital campaign. He began his development consulting career in 1989 and founded Advancement Partners, Inc. in 1996.

Advancement Partners specializes in development consulting capital campaign management and strategic planning for Catholic secondary education and since its founding has worked with over 300 Catholic secondary education clients nationwide.

Terry has been involved in over 200 capital campaigns for Catholic education, numerous other advancement-related projects (annual fund, strategic planning, development assessments, interim development services, development counsel, board training) and has conducted over 3,500 personal solicitation calls. He is a graduate of Loyola High School (Montreal) and the Phillips Exeter Academy (Exeter, NH). He has earned both a BBA and MBA from the University of Notre Dame.

A contributor to national publications and a frequent speaker at national advancement conferences, Terry resides in Dublin, OH with Diana, his wife of thirty-three years; they have three sons, Mark (31), Bryan (30) and Curt (24). He is interested in golf, playing the guitar and physical fitness.