Asking for money is hard enough as it is. Throw in talk of bequests and wills, with their unspoken nuances, and even the best fundraisers may cringe before the task.
This reluctance has some understandable reasons. In a fundraiser’s view:
• It involves talk of death.
• It’s not current money — you need funds right now.
• It’s expensive and complicated, with lawyers and paperwork.
• You don’t know many rich supporters.
Every one of these excuses, however, is wrong or exaggerated. A smart approach to establishing or maintaining a robust planned giving program can help your organization demystify the matter, overcome fundraiser hesitancy and develop a significant and lasting revenue stream. A planned giving effort can also bring you closer to your current donors.
Getting Started Is Easy
If you don’t have a planned giving program, or you only have a feeble one, you can turn it around. There’s no reason to complicate matters — just get the word out in your next mailing, on your Web site and at your next event. A couple of sentences in any of these channels will start the ball rolling and set the tone for more fully developed appeals. For example:
“Did you know you can make a gift in your will? Let your legacy continue your valued support of our programs for years to come.”
Note: The information you provide in reply to interested donors should always include a reminder to discuss their plans with their attorney or financial advisor.
Some nonprofits have received substantial estate donations after just such an announcement. You can accept such a pledge and formally process it later as you build your program and accept other types of planned gifts.
Approach the Right People
Don’t start with your biggest donors, but with your most frequent and active donors. Donors who are most loyal over the long haul, even with smaller gifts, are the ones most likely to continue that support with a bequest.
A modest donor, fully committed, may give as much in a will as an occasional large donor. Of course, you’ll approach large donors as well.
The best age for entertaining a legacy request often is in the early 50s — a time when many people begin to consider their life and its impact and when the outlines of estates are clearer.
With any donor, the right conversation isn’t one about estate, or even the terms of the gift, but about the future. It begins with your nonprofit’s most significant long-term prospects and the importance of the donor’s current support, and it offers a natural segue into a great new opportunity to continue their admirable legacy.
Your Legacy Group
Planned gifts are the basis of your legacy group, a class of donors who deserve recognition and benefits just like other donors. They deserve a place on your donor wall, VIP status at events and substantive contact with your staff and leadership. An annual lunch or occasional conference call will help cement their ongoing support and keep your organization firmly in their will.
Many nonprofits call this group their “legacy society.” That’s fine, but don’t miss a branding opportunity. It’s worth some time to come up with a good name — one that references your organization’s work and conveys the forward-looking and valuable contribution of legacy donors.
Major Transfer of Wealth Coming
By some estimates, charitable donations could reach $72 trillion over the next 40 years. That’s good news, but competition for these gifts, already sharp, will grow even fiercer in the years to come. You can be sure that other nonprofits will step up their planned giving campaigns.
Fortunately, getting started is inexpensive. No special fundraising expertise is needed, and virtually any nonprofit can conduct a planned giving campaign.
Yet the daily grind of rent, payroll and other expenses can easily overshadow the long-term benefits of planned giving. That may be why only about six percent of Americans over 55 include a nonprofit bequest in their wills. Within the rest lies a vast and untapped source of funding.