If charities made it easier to leave a legacy, more people would gladly do so. Overcome these obstacles, and watch what happens...
Recently I had a wonderful email conversation with Bill, the director of legacy giving at a large charity. He wrote:
"I have just read a couple of your pieces which are excellent. This morning I read The Facts Behind the $41 Trillion. Am wondering if you could point me to any research pieces that identify barriers to bequest giving. I found one this morning which includes:
- Lack of solicitation
- Family needs come first
- Feelings of financial insecurity
- Estate planning is too complicated and costly.
These are all valid, but I am wondering if there is another "top 5" list with different barriers?"
Read Bill's list again, carefully.
Because as I told him, in my opinion, he'd already listed the biggest legacy logjams ... and the ones that I as a copywriter work hardest to help my clients overcome. This article explores each legacy logjam one by one, suggests ways to free them, and includes as many links to helpful resources as I can pack in.
Legacy Logjam #1: Lack of Solicitation
Seven words sum it up: if you don't ask, you don't get.
But fear not. There is a cure for lack of solicitation.
Focus on one type of legacy: making a bequest in a Will (95% of all planned gifts in the U.S. happen this way, with a rough average of $35,000 per bequest).
Then start asking, by putting your bequest marketing on "drip-feed" ... also known as the steady, ongoing mention of how your donors can leave a legacy gift in their Wills to benefit the future good work of your organization.
Since hardly anyone does this, the opportunity is still huge.
In the truckload of donor newsletters, appeals, emails and other communications I keep on file, precious few say a peep about how to leave a simple legacy gift in my Will or the lasting benefits of a bequest (i.e., make a difference for the future, do something good, be remembered after they're gone, benefit to society, relieve suffering, etc.).
To illustrate what drip-feed bequest marketing can do for you, a story:
In the Fall 2010 issue of a donor newsletter I wrote for a client, we placed a simple call-out box telling donors how they could leave a legacy gift in their Wills - and of the good it would do. It was the first mention this organization had ever made about bequests.
Eighteen months later they received a legacy gift of more than $10,000 from a gentleman who had given a couple of gifts during that time while living, then passed away.
Ten. Thousand. Dollars. From a single call-out box.
Where in your donor communications can you mention bequests? In newsletters, postscripts, welcome packs, website, emails, magazines, fundraising premiums, and more.
The trick is to get started. Now. Drip, drip, drip.
Legacy Logjam #2: Family Needs Come First
Freeing this legacy logjam isn't as easy as a call-out box in your newsletter. For most of us, family comes first ... or as the old saw goes, "blood is thicker than water."
But, even with family, some are more likely to bequeath...
Most of us have read that the best clue of all is an older female donor who uses the title "Miss."
Here's another clue. A 2009 article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, "New Research Sheds Light on Bequest Giving", reported on a study of 20,000+ Americans over age 50 that found the most likely to make bequests are people with no children or grandchildren. (But if you have to choose between children vs. grandchildren, pick people with children. The study found only about 1 in 10 people with grandchildren make bequests.)
You can also acknowledge the "family first" issue head on. Include as an option the remainder bequest, as does CNY SPCA on its website: "Give only the remainder, or residue, of your estate-that which remains after bequests to loved ones have been made."
Legacy Logjam #3: Feelings of Financial Insecurity
Blackbaud's excellent e-book, Creating a Legacy: Building a Planned Giving Program from the Ground Up, rightly points out that many of your donors believe "only the rich leave legacies."
Your job - especially in the aforementioned "drip-feed" communications - is to assure them that anyone can leave a legacy, and any amount will make a difference.
See how Pancreatic Cancer Action does this, and does it well.
Legacy Logjam #4: Estate Planning is Too Complicated and Costly
I wrote about it years ago and it's still true today: there's nothing like legalese to kill the giving spirit.
So when you use phrases like - and these are from an actual nonprofit website - "charitable planned gifts" ... "pooled income funds" ... and "life estate agreements" - you've already lost me.
Do this instead:
- Tell me how easy it is to make a simple bequest.
- Reassure me I can still remember the people I love first.
- Show me the lasting difference my bequest will make, of any size.
- Remind me that it's easy to not only have a Will drawn up, but to leave a bequest to your charity.
- Give me the language I need to make that happen.
- Do NOT ask me to "declare" that I've made a bequest - this only creates a whole new logjam (see link to SOFII case study, in resource #1, right sidebar).
- Explain how incredibly grateful you'll be.
Drip, drip, drip. Can you hear it? Those legacy logjams are already starting to clear.