Asking for 529 Gift Contributions


The Illinois Bright Start Direct-Sold College Savings Plan is a great way to save for college. If you live in Illinois or several other states, it’s probably the best 529 plan option out there. To read up on it and to open one, check out this post. Allowing family and friends to make 529 Gift Contributions will really help your child in the future.

The Illinois Bright Start Direct Sold College Savings Plan is an excellent 529 plan option.

We started baby Moneyaire’s 529 plan soon after she was born. When family and friends asked us what they could get for baby Moneyaire, we asked that they consider a contribution to her 529 plan.

Costs have shot up

College/University costs have gone up exponentially; it’s hard for the average family to send their kids off to college without incurring huge loans. According to this college savings calculator families can anticipate spending between $275k to $400k per child to send them to college or university in 18 years. To give your family the best bet to be able to cover these expenses, it’s best to start early and be open to receiving contributions from friends and family.

I know – it’s tough to suggest a contribution to a 529 plan instead of a traditional gift of toys or clothes. It almost feels a bit icky to some folks. We certainly, at first, had that reaction. We hesitated to ask for contributions at first because we didn’t want to look cheap or ungrateful.

The Tough Ask

Ultimately, what helped us be more open to asking for and accepting 529 contributions (and the flak we get) was our desire to provide and secure the most benefit to baby Moneyaire’s future. Clothes, toys and the million other things a child seemingly needs to become a well rounded human can quickly become an overwhelming pile of “stuff.” As parents, we are super grateful for everything we receive because we are so grateful for the wonderful people in our lives who want to show us they care and love baby Moneyaire.

All Gifts are Appreciated

If your child is like ours, they’ve got everything they need – including a singing pizza (which brings a lot of delight to baby Moneyaire). Receiving real physical gifts is important. The joy children get from opening up toys on holidays or birthdays stays with them, even if the gifts don’t. Its a wonderful feeling to open up a gift and love what’s inside. Its important for kids to know people love and care for them. Thoughtful, fun, useful toys, clothes and the rest helps them understand that.

529 gifts also show that same love and care. It also says a lot about the person giving that gift; it shows they understand the burden of higher education and want to help out to reduce it not just for the kids but the whole family.

We luckily have several friends and family who have taken us up on our suggestion to contribute. To date (9/6/2021) nearly 30% of the contributions baby Moneyaire has received are gifts from friends and family.


If you have an Illinois Bright Start account, below are the steps you need to take to help others make a contribution to your kid’s 529 plan:

Important Note: In order to solicit gift contributions your account has to already have some money in it. When you initially open your account I suggest you fund the account with even just $10 so you can later ask for contributions without facing this hurdle.

  1. Log into your 529 Account. Don’t have one yet? Click here to get started.
  2. Click on the menu option near the top of the screen that says “Gifted”

3. After you click on “Gifted” you’ll come to a new screen and part of it should look like the screen shot below. Click on the button that says “529 Gift – Create an Invitation”. This button is annoyingly easy to miss.

4. After clicking on the button a new screen will open. The top part of it will look like the screenshot below. You’ll need to select the account that you’d like to invite people to contribute to. You do this by selecting “Create and send invitation” in the drop down next to the account you want to send the invitation for.

5. Next we’ll need to add invitees. To start this process click on the button that says “Add New Invitee”

6. A pop up window will appear asking for your invitee’s name, email address and phone number. I usually just input my own phone number here because the phone number isn’t necessary for the invite to go out. When these three lines of info filled out click on “OK.” Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to add invitees in mass. I have only been able to do it one at a time. To add additional invitees, rinse and repeat.

7. When the invitees have been added, the screen will look similar to the one below. If the list has all your intended invitees click on “NEXT”.

8. In the next screen you’ll be able to select a pre-written invitation you can customize, or you can create an original by selecting “Custom”.

9. I like customizing my message. I ask my gift giver if they’d like to contribute to baby Moneyaire’s 529 plan before they receive an email. If they say, “yes”, I’ll add them as an invitee. Because of this I usually start off thanking my invitees for considering a gift to baby Moneyaire’s 529 plan.

Make it clear

To avoid confusion, I remove this line about the online or snail mail options, “You can use Bright Start GiftED to contribute online or print and mail a deposit coupon with your check to Bright Start.”

I like to customize the subject line. I add the event and am clear that this is an invite to the 529 plan for Baby Moneyaire.

An often overlooked key piece of information your gift givers need to make a contribution is the Access Code. The code is right below the contribution link in the email. It’s super easy to miss. I highlight and use all caps to try and get this point across. I want my gift giver to grab the access code before clicking the link. Below is what a typical invite from us looks like.

After you’re done writing your message click the “NEXT” button in the lower right hand corner.

10. You now have the opportunity to review your recipients, account information and email message. If all looks good, check the terms and conditions box and then the “Save and Send Email” button.

You’ll receive a success note letting you know your invite was sent. Copies of the invites will also be sent to your email address on file for the account.

Whew! Great job guys! You’re taking responsibility and being super proactive getting your child’s 529 plan funded. Be Proud!

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