RESOURCES  |  March 30, 2020

A conversation: Dr. Russell James on planned giving and the Coronavirus crisis

Written by FreeWill

Planned giving expert, Dr. Russell James, and Patrick Schmitt, the co-CEO of FreeWill, discuss the Coronavirus crisis and its impact on planned giving.



Dr. James is the Director of Graduate Studies in Charitable Financial Planning at Texas Tech University. He has over 25 years of experience as a planned giving fundraiser and attorney, and his research has been cited in The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNN, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and more.


In this casual conversation, Patrick and Dr. James discuss tips and strategies for navigating planned giving during the pandemic, as well as how planned giving can increase annual giving.


Jump to:

  • 2:05 — What makes the Coronavirus pandemic one of the best and worst times for planned giving
  • 4:13 — Tips for navigating conversations and marketing communications about planned giving in a thoughtful, sensitive way
  • 12:07 — The impact of planned giving on annual giving (Fun fact: donors who make a bequest in their will give an average of 75% more in following years)
  • 14:26 — How planned giving can invert the donor pyramid by having planned gifts open the door for major gifts 
  • 17:19 — How asking people to leave a gift to charity while they make a will doubles the likelihood that they will make a bequest
  • 20:02 — Why attorneys don’t ask clients to leave a gift to charity more often during the estate planning process 
  • 22:02 — Why asking for percentage gifts over cash gifts in a will is better for charities and for donors
  • 24:30 — How nonprofits can navigate and ask for stock gifts during a fluctuating market
  • 27:30 — Why organizations grow when they take in appreciated assets
  • 30:25 — Dr. James’ overarching message to the planned giving community for how they should navigate this moment in history