Leverage Make-a-Will Month To Boost Planned Giving

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

Baby Boomers will pass on more than $30 trillion in wealth to the next generation over the ensuing 25 years — and they are deciding right now who to leave their estates to. Further, the Coronavirus pandemic has stimulated a rapid rise in estate planning and legacy or planned giving, as well as a drop in cash gifts due to economic uncertainty.

That’s why taking advantage now of August being the National Make-A-Will Month is a great fundraising step. You have a significant opportunity to increase your nonprofit’s planned gifts by making your donors aware of this. Charity Navigator has documented that 10% of overall giving comes from bequests made by wills.

The easiest planned gift for your supporters to make is to leave a portion of their estate to your organization as a bequest in their will. Even if that gift is only 1% of a donor’s total estate, it can have a huge impact for your nonprofit’s future revenue.

The average planned gift given in the US is more than $70,000 per each donor’s estate. Yet, only about 30% of Americans say they have a will, which means that most of your supporters probably need to make one. If you’re part of a planned giving or fundraising team at a nonprofit, make the most of this month’s theme. Even if you don’t have a full planned giving campaign devoted to Make-A-Will Month, you should at least promote it several times via email, social media, and other communications. Mailing a letter as well is a best practice. If you’d like a free sample of a “include us in your will” donor cultivation letter email me and I will send it to you.

Also include in your donor communications this resource that will help your donor’s plan their future giving to your nonprofit. This free, online resource guides them through the process of creating a legally valid will in 20 minutes or less.

The fact is that many of your donors mistakenly think that Wills are only important if you have a lot of money or property. That is just not true. You must debunk this myth in your donor communications, and this list of the ten reasons a will is important will help you do that.

When you ask your donors to include your nonprofit in their will, also ask them to let you know when they do. Here’s an example from the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund of a website announcement and related form that you can model your nonprofit’s message after.

860 Donors Say This

If I have not convinced you yet, this data will. Using data from a survey with 860 donors, we learned the following:
  • The average age donors wrote their first will was 44 years old and almost all (91.6%) used a legal advisor to write their wills.
  • Over half (53%) of donors established their first planned gift at the time of writing their first will.
  • 7% of study participants felt their estate planning process was “very easy” or “somewhat easy” with another 22.9% reporting feeling neutral about the process.
  • The average age at which donors made their first planned gift was 52.8 years old. Among gay and lesbian donors, the average age of first gift was slightly younger, at 50 years old.
  • Respondents were most likely to make a charitable bequest (68.1%), followed by a charitable beneficiary of a retirement plan (29.7%), insurance policy beneficiary (18.5%), and charitable trust (18.5%). Interestingly, donor-advised funds (DAFs) surpassed charitable gift annuities in the donor sample.
  • The top three motivations donors cited for making a planned gift were: the importance of the cause; the belief that the nonprofit makes a significant impact; and the donor’s ability to make a larger gift through their estate than during the donor’s lifetime. This means that your annual fund must thoughtfully integrate planned giving.

If you have a solid planned giving program already, this resource will guide you to accurately measure the results of current efforts. To learn more about planned giving overall, chapter 13 of my book, The NonProfit Fundraising Solution is a must-read.

We welcome your comments about this post on the LAPA blog.

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