This study represents a first attempt to map the almost unexplored territory of legacy societies in planned giving. Existing literature has not examined planned gifts through the lens of legacy societies. This study thus represents the first systematic data collection and analysis of planned gifts made to higher education institutions in the U.S.
The study first reviewed charitable bequests received by the top 120 U.S. higher education institutions in the fiscal year of 2014 and examined the basic characteristics of their legacy societies. This list of 120 institutions is based on data from the 2014 Digest of Education Statistics, which is issued by the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education. Data on charitable giving and bequests came from the Voluntary Support of Education survey by the Council for Aid to Education. Information on university legacy societies was collected from universities' websites, brochures, and newsletters.
This study then examined data on planned gifts and donors from five case-study universities located in different geographic regions in the U.S. We received data between the summer of 2014 and the fall of 2015 from these five universities. The sample includes data on planned gifts made from 1972 to 2015 (the exact range varies by university). The combined data set contains both donor-level and gift-level information—for example, age, graduation class and residence of donor, amount and type of planned gifts, and year when the gift was made (or announced to the university). In addition to this common set of data, each university also has some additional, unique data offering rich information on donors (such as gender, marital status, and degree) or gifts (such as restrictions of gifts or outright gifts made by planned giving donors). Further, one university has information on both legacy society members and non-members.
Compared with survey data or tax records, this sample has unique advantages, capturing both the trend in planned gifts over time and detailed information on each gift and donor. The uniqueness of the data in this study offers a great opportunity to explore planned giving behavior among actual donors.
The analysis here includes bequest intentions, realized bequests, and deferred gifts because the data often do not contain enough detailed information allowing a clear separation of these types of planned gifts.