Giving USA 2017 just came out a week ago and the news is good. Total charitable giving rose to a new all-time high of $390 billion. Giving by individuals, foundations, and corporations were all up by 3-4%. (Check out this handy infographic for a quick look.)
One category of giving decreased. Bequests declined 9% between 2015 and 2016.
This could be an anomaly, or the result of lower average bequest gifts in this one year. But for the last three years, Giving USA has reported slower growth in bequest giving as opposed to other kinds of giving. It seems like there may be more going on here.
Is it that people aren’t making as many of these gifts? Or is it that we as nonprofit aren’t asking?
Time will tell, but as you build your individual giving program, don’t forget to let your donors know about bequest giving opportunities. Bequest gifts are some of the most transformational gifts there are – for the organization and the donor.
In case your organization needs to brush up on bequest giving, I’ve put together 5 quick and easy ways to get you in gear:
Do Drip Marketing: Some donors to your organization won’t even know that a bequest gift is a possibility. You need to use all of your communication channels to get the word out. Put the message everywhere; on your reply device, in your annual report, on your Facebook page. Mention it at events, in face-to-face solicitations, and at volunteer orientation sessions. You want to make your donors conscious of the opportunities bequest giving opens for them, and take action when it works for them.
Create a Legacy Society: A Legacy Society can be a great way to jump start a bequest giving initiative. Like any other giving club, a a Legacy Society provides a way to recognize donors and provides the structure for stewarding the important commitment bequest donors have made to your organization. Start small and lean and ask a few donors to be founding members to kick it off. These members can also help you to determine the benefits for a giving club that is in line with your organization’s assets and values.
Use Testimonials: If you have donors who have put your organization in their will or estate plans, ask them if they will tell their story of why, and why they have chosen to support your work in this way. This not only recognizes their incredible commitment, but it will also inspire others. Here’s a great example recently put online by the Community Foundation Serving Boulder County.
Build Partnerships with Professionals: You or your donors might need professional advice when questions about bequest giving come up. Consider building a network of attorneys, financial planners, and charitable advisors that you can turn to with questions and that you can connect with donors who are looking for professional advice. Again, start small and recruit advisors who are already committed to your organization in some way. They will be your best advocates.
Include Bequest Giving in Your Personal Solicitations: This can be as simple as asking “Have you considered putting our organization in your will?” when you meet with donors face to face. It’s just another opportunity that you can offer as you determine the right fit for your most dedicated donors.
And remember – you don’t need a large staff and loads of money to talk to your donors about bequest giving. You already have the channels – use them to talk to your donors about the opportunity to leave a larger gift than they ever thought possible. They’ll thank you!