Can Legacy Gifts Come From Donors Outside Your Mailing Lists?

The answer is yes! Yet, very few of these gifts are uncovered and made known to the charity before the donor passes away. 

This is a trend we’ve been paying a lot of attention to over the past two years, since there are potentially millions of dollars in bequests that charities don’t have visibility into. With online Wills in particular, a huge opportunity exists to uncover additional gifts from supporters who may have never even donated to the charity before. Now that there are digital solutions for legacy giving, the pen and paper process used in the past can be updated to be more in line with other areas of fundraising. 

This first became known to us when we were running our initial test pilots, where we tested In-App Placements with a free Wills offer. While using Facebook ads to target those looking for a free solution to create a Will, we created a “Leave a Legacy” section in the app, which gave testators the option to leave a gift to an important cause to them. A few charities were listed in a carousel-style format in this section above a box where they could also search for additional charities. During the course of two pilots, all the charities cycled through the carousel received gifts, with a few even receiving six and seven-figure gifts unprompted. When sharing the gifts with the relevant charities, we learned that many of those who left gifts had never given to the charity before, and that the charities had no previous visibility into these types of gifts. 

In general, gifts in this category can come from testators who may not donate on a regular basis to a charity, but still have a strong association to the cause based on a number of factors. Our research has found that this is true for all types of charities, but health and environmental causes are the most common, with universities and colleges being a close third. 

Since environmental charities often work for the sustainability and preservation of the planet, those who leave gifts in Wills likely see these types of charities as a fit for their wishes of ensuring they carry on that legacy of sustainability for future generations to come. With health causes on the other hand, many people can associate to the various causes outside of regular donations through personal experience or from the experience of a family member or friend, the latter of which prompted a $1.5M residual gift to be left to a hospital foundation during one of our pilots. 

That’s not to say that charities of all causes don’t have the potential to drive gifts from supporters they wouldn’t normally see as prime candidates to be legacy donors, but options such as In-App Placements can help them measure success as to whether targeting testators outside of mailing lists is advantageous. 

This all comes back to tracking and ensuring visibility for charities so that they can plan better for the future. If charities have visibility into gifts from supporters both inside and outside of their mailing lists, they end up having a more holistic view of the expectancies in their planned giving pipeline. 

It also allows additional stewardship and discovery opportunities with new donors. Since Willfora captures gift information and an opt-in to share information with the charity together, the process of a supporter outside of a charity database leaving a legacy can be streamlined into one simple step where they can opt-in to make their intentions known by the charity while creating their Will. 

While ensuring that all data remains confidential to testators who use the platform, opting in to share information with charities is a necessary action that ensures charities have better visibility into future income, while also protecting the privacy of testators using the platform. 

Traditionally, charities use separate forms for donors to fill out to capture information on legacy gifts, but if this can be rolled into one step, it streamlines the process for the charity, while still ensuring that only the relevant information on the donors is shared. This would normally not be possible unless the testator sought out the gift confirmation form on the charity website, which is highly unlikely if they haven’t been in contact with the charity before unless they have been educated in the past on the importance of sharing legacy intentions. 

Overall, charities deserve better solutions to the problem of identifying the true value of legacy giving expectancies, and embracing digital solutions can help them cross that bridge.


If your charity wants to superpower legacy giving through a Charity Page or In-App Placement, contact us to book a demo.

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