Your Legacy Society

Because August is “Make A Will” month, I’ve been writing each week about how you can encourage your donors to designate your nonprofit in their will.

So far, I’ve focused on the importance of using phrases that work better than our industry estate-giving language.

I’ve also conveyed the top facts that can guide you to raising more planned-giving revenue.

Plus I shared the key sentences you’ll want to use in your donor communications.

This week’s focus is on establishing, or advancing, your Legacy Society.

Establishing a Legacy Society

An absolutely essential aspect of a robust planned-giving program is thanking and recognizing donors for remembering your organization in their will and estate plans. This can be accomplished by establishing a planned-giving legacy society.

A legacy society is a prestigious “club” open to donors who have made a planned gift to benefit a nonprofit upon their deaths. The honor associated with membership in a legacy society encourages others to follow suit and increases your overall number of planned gifts.

The society provides yet another highly visible way for your nonprofit to create awareness of its planned-giving program, while donors receive a conspicuous acknowledgment of their devotion and generosity to a favorite cause.

Establishing a society is not difficult and can significantly spread interest and awareness of planned- giving opportunities among your donors. A simple board resolution establishing your legacy society is enough to get you started. Thereafter, through your gift-acceptance policies, you can work out the goals and protocols of your legacy society.

Advancing an Existing Legacy Society

Many legacy societies go stale, and they often need to be spruced-up. I can assure you that while you may know the purpose of the legacy society, everyone else will need constant reminders.

Consider taking these steps:

  1. Provide a link in your donor communication materials for the reader to learn more about your planned-giving options.
  2. Ask for new testimonials from existing members which highlight why they joined. Short videos should be recorded, along with pithy quotes.
  3. Do at least two mailings a year thanking existing members for their unique participation, reminding them of the benefits of membership, and inspiring them to feel good about having taken this step.
  4. Invite legacy society members to special online or in-person gatherings or briefings with the board chairperson and/or CEO, and/or an industry leader.
  5. Refresh your invitation language with an innovative approach describing the urgency behind the legacy society and using more compelling, more dynamic language.

Naming Your Legacy Society

Thoughtful consideration should be given to your legacy society’s name.

  • How do you want the legacy society portrayed?
  • What image do you wish to invoke?
  • What do donors value most about your organization?

You’d be wise to choose a value-oriented name. That is, you can opt to name it after a major donor, a community leader, or even a historical figure whose legacy is in line with your agency’s mission (e.g., The Neil Armstrong Legacy Society as a name for an aerospace nonprofit).

Choosing inspirational words or phrases also works: The Carpe Diem Society, Dor L’Dor (“generation to generation”), New Century Society, Founders Legacy Society, Guardians Circle are all real examples.

Many nonprofits name their legacy societies after the year in which the organization was founded. This naming approach emphasizes the stability of the organization—crucial for donors who are considering planned gifts.

A motivating legacy society name is a powerful influence; it can attract and retain donors who feel strongly about your mission. A good legacy society name embodies the noble ideals postulated in your  mission and vision statements. The legacy society name can symbolize the values motivating your nonprofit and what it hopes to achieve. Donors feel honored to belong to a group that stands for a worthwhile cause. Your legacy society name sets the bar high to showcase what members can accomplish through charitable planned giving.

Preserving Your Legacy Society

Finally, you must decide how you will acknowledge your legacy society members.

Their names can be listed in your annual report, impact reports, in your newsletter, at your website, on your letterhead, or through an online or in-person event devoted specifically to the topic.

For those planned givers who want to remain anonymous, that’s fine—just go ahead and say that you have xx number of donors who have made a planned gift but wish to remain anonymous.

No matter how you shape your planned-giving strategy, in order for it to be effective it must regularly identify, cultivate, educate, listen to, meet with, and solicit donors.

If you’re scrambling to raise cash today, it’s because your organization didn’t pursue planned gifts in years passed.

Make this pledge now as one of your ongoing goals: “I pledge that I will do all I can to invite every one of our donors to remember our nonprofit in their will, or to make some kind of arrangement benefiting the organization from their estate.”

The National Council of Nonprofits offers this Guide to Legacy Giving that you may find useful.

Please share this post with a colleague who may appreciate it.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Posts

Include Your Board Members In Your Year-End Giving Plan

Year-end giving is on all fundraisers’ minds right now—we all want to have the best returns possible. Last week, we described what’s ahead for year-end giving in 2022; you can read about that here. Over the next few weeks, I’ll examine various aspects of year-end giving, including the Thanksgiving Thank-A-Thon, year-end appeal letters, and the crucial last four days of the year. Stay tuned.   Today, let’s look at some tips for inviting your board to play a leadership role in your year-end drive. It’s our job as fundraisers to make it easy for board members to participate in fundraising,

Read More »

What’s Ahead In Year-End Giving?

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA, Michael Taylor, CFRE, Brooke Bryant, CFRE, Alison Plott, MFA, Alexa Strautmanis, Alyssa Greengrass, MA, and Evan Northup, CFRE. Today’s blog post is a team effort as required by such an unwieldy subject: what’s ahead in year-end giving for 2022? We seven contributors are all senior fundraisers at LAPA Fundraising, and we’ve been pondering this question since spring. You can see our bios here. This is what we project for your 2022 year-end fundraising: Market Volatility We’ve been tracking market volatility, wondering what it will be like a years-end. Of note, we’re ending the year without

Read More »

Tips For Becoming The Best Fundraiser You Can Be

You are the most important aspect of your fundraising program, not the latest software, not the latest research findings, not the latest prospect research tactic. Solely, you. Without you, all the rest is grist for the mill. These tips drawn from my own recent professional development experiences may inspire you. Here goes.: Sometimes you must forget everything and start anew. What worked before may not work now. Ask yourself what would it take to clear the decks and try a brand-new approach? Of course, we don’t want something new just for the novelty of it. We want something new to

Read More »

A Nifty Tool To Improve Fundraising Copy

“Books are well written or badly written. That is all.” Well, whatever aesthetic criteria Oscar had in mind when talking about literature, we can now scientifically say the same for fundraising copy. All I’ve ever done is write copy (I mean, I’ve done other stuff with my life, but not for a living). But it’s only in the past year, since testing and launching the Copy Optimizer, I’ve had any objective criteria by which to assess whether anything I wrote was good or bad. In the fundraising world good or bad is defined by response rate. But despite endless drafts and rounds

Read More »