Moving the Needle with Special Gifts for Your Ministry

by Dr. Jeffrey Steed, Director of Planned Giving, Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation

This article will briefly describe special gifts, discuss ways to educate constituents on these special gifts and will provide some real-life case studies that can move the needle in your ministry.

Before we discuss moving the needle in regards to educating and promoting special gifts to constituents, the following explanations are needed from an introductory standpoint:

  • Current Gifts (Including non-cash gifts, donor-advised funds and IRA charitable contributions for individuals at least 70½+ in age)
  • Life Income Gifts (Including split interest gifts benefiting both the donor and ministry such as a charitable gift annuity, charitable remainder trust, or charitable lead trust)
  • Bequest Gifts (Including wills, revocable trusts, and other estate plans)
  • Gifts through Beneficiary Forms (Including life insurance, retirement accounts and other)
  1. list is not all inclusive but provides a general overview of special gifts that can benefit a church and/or other ministry.

How can a church or other ministry move the needle in educating and promoting special gifts to constituents? One strategy involves the following:

Step #1: Identify all internal and external constituents groups. As an example, this may include prospective donors for special gifts, regional professional advisors often working with constituents, development/stewardship staff, and other constituents.

Step #2: List all of the marketing and promotional methods available to your ministry. As an example, this may include email broadcasts, traditional mailings, social media posts, one-on-one meetings, comprehensive website content for special gifts, special eblasts, use of special communication mediums for development/stewardship, and educational seminars.

Step #3: For each listed constituent group from Step #1, map out which marketing and promotional methods listed in Step #2 that are most effective for each specific constituent group. As an example, consider constituents in the “Prospective Donors for Special Gifts” section. Specifically, query your ministry’s database for all loyal donors such as those who have given any dollar amount annually for ten years or longer. Now consider the marketing methods that can best communicate special gift opportunities to this group such as a monthly email in an enewsletter format.

Step #4: Develop a timeline for executing the details of Step #3 that also helps with accountability purposes. As an example, this timeline could include a monthly deadline for preparing the monthly enewsletter content and scheduling the distribution date in your ministry’s email distribution platform.

The below is a very hypothetical illustration of constituent groups and promotional/marketing efforts for a ministry organization:



The following real-life case studies may help the reader further learn about special gifts that can move the needle in benefiting a church or other ministry organization while accomplishing objectives of constituents:

  • Special Gifts from an IRA: Mrs. Lyle just turned age 71. She has a traditional IRA account and is now required to withdraw annual required minimum amounts due to reaching the age of 70½. Mrs. Lyle provides contributions to her church and other ministries every year. She contacted her IRA custodian and instructed that the required withdrawal amounts be sent directly to her church and other ministries. The maximum qualifying amount annually for these distributions is $100,000. There should be not tax on these distributions and no tax deduction. It provides a great way for Mrs. Lyle to move the needle in impacting an international missions organization without having to pay taxes on her annual required minimum distributions.
  • Benefiting Family and Ministry: Mary Smith wants to benefit her children and some ministries with outright gifts at her passing. She also wants to benefit both of the children with an income stream after her passing. In her Will, Mary has instructions to benefit her children, Sue and Tad, with 10% of her estate outright for each of them. She has another 10% outright distribution that will benefit some ministries. With the remaining 70% of her estate, she establishes a Charitable Remainder Trust that will provide 5% of the Trust value each year to Sue and Tad for 20 years. After 20 years, the remaining funds establish The Smith Endowment to perpetually move the needle by benefiting several ministries with the endowment income every year.
  • Retirement Income: Mrs. Wright, age 70, has a CD coming up for maturity and she is concerned about the renewal rate of 1.50% because it will negatively impact her retirement income. Mrs. Wright decides to establish a Charitable Gift Annuity that will pay her 5.6% annually the rest of her life. When she passes away, the remainder will move the needle by benefiting her church and some other ministries that she wants to impact.
  • Diversifying a Portfolio: Mr. May has an appreciated stock (worth more than what he paid for it) that makes up a large portion of his portfolio. If he sells the stock to diversify into mutual funds, he will have capital gains tax. Mr. May establishes a charitable remainder trust (CRT). The CRT sells the stock and diversifies the funds while at least initially bypassing the capital gains tax. Mr. May receives income from the CRT for his retirement years. After his passing, the remainder will move the needle by funding scholarships at a Christian college to help educate future leaders that will advance the Kingdom. (Note: This approach could also be used to sell a family farm, business [i.e. closely-held C-Corporation] and other types of assets.)


Moving the needle related to special gifts in churches and/or other ministries is so critical (1) for helping constituents steward some of their resources in a way that is God-honoring and (2) for ministries having additional future funding. May we help our constituents and ministries advance the Kingdom with special gifts!


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.