The Pentera Blog

Increase in Bequests from Small Estates Is Good News for Planned Giving

"Bequests down 9 percent" was the headline about planned giving that got reported most from Giving USA 2017 - but that is not the most important finding about planned giving in the annual report on philanthropy. More significant to your nonprofit is the finding that less-affluent donors are giving more through bequests.

The 2017 study found a 20 percent increase in bequest giving from estates with assets of less than $1 million, with those bequests totaling almost $6.7 billion. That is up significantly from the 11 percent increase reported in 2016 (totaling $6.3 billion).

“Smaller charities can focus more efforts on planned giving,” the study concluded in response to the finding.

The increase from smaller estates runs counter to what is happening with larger estates. Bequest giving from estates with assets between $1 million and $5 million was down 16 percent, and bequest giving from even larger estates was down 14 percent. Fluctuations are common in giving from the largest estates because there may be more very large gifts in some years and not others: The largest bequest in the 2017 report was $400 million, while the 2016 report had two gifts above $600 million.

The increase in giving from smaller estates is definitely a positive trend. So pay close attention to your prospective donors who are not the richest of the rich.

The complete study and information about it is available at