The Power in One Legacy Gift

Much like starting a new business, when a nonprofit transfers some of its focus to legacy giving, those early growing pains can quickly rise to the surface without a clear sense of direction and understanding of how to make growth happen. This is much like a train beginning the process of gaining momentum; the first few feet require the most time and energy before momentum can build. 

In legacy giving though, many nonprofits get stuck in the first few feet when starting the journey due to a lack of time and resources. Often charities have had legacy gifts made to them before, but only found out about them after the person has died.

When we ask charities how they currently think about legacy giving, a very common response tends to be that they’ve received legacy gifts before but don’t currently track or have any proactive measures in place for gaining insights into their current donors who have left (or could leave) a legacy gift.

The truth is that if used correctly, one legacy gift is all a charity needs to change the trajectory of legacy giving at the organization.

Here's three practical steps to starting a legacy giving program through just one gift:

Step #1: Uncovering just one legacy gift

If a charity gains visibility into just one legacy gift, just like starting a new business and getting the first customer, they now have a proof concept. Whether the person is still living or not, there’s always a story that goes along with a legacy gift. Perhaps this person was a long-time donor to the charity and the final piece of their contribution was to leave a small part of their estate as well. What an amazing story of donor loyalty!

An additional example we typically see in health or environmental causes is that they paint a broad enough brush for people who may not be actively involved with the charity to still leave a legacy gift due to their personal affiliation with the cause. Again, what a great opportunity to learn about untapped segments of donors. 

Provided the charity can steward the donor (or their loved ones in case they’ve already passed away) to receive permission to use their story, the charity can then include that powerful story in their communications and on their website as a compelling testimonial to inspire others to do the same. The story can be used in emails, newsletters, or direct mailers to create legacy-specific content as well as the legacy giving page on the charity website or in blog content. 

This type of success story is often a key differentiator for charities who prioritize legacy giving and want it to grow, and it’s also one that doesn’t require constant updates. It’s rather a proof of concept that donors should consider leaving a legacy through their Wills. 

Step #2: Figure out who else is in your pipeline

Most charities with engaged and long-time donors have legacy gifts made to them whether they’re aware of them or not. That’s why the next step in starting a legacy giving program should be to have a form for donors to let the charity know that they’ve made a legacy gift. This is as simple as creating a form that links from the charity legacy page, with the option for donors to share their information with the charity or remain anonymous. 

While many charities already do this, it’s an important step that shouldn’t be overlooked because of the potential it has to uncover what’s already in their pipeline of gifts. It’s also a compelling call-to-action that could be sent to key segments of donors from time-to-time as a reminder or gentle nudge, due to how a charity can benefit from knowing this information. 

Step #3: Fight the inertia around creating Wills (and increase your chances of legacy gifts!)

The last step here is to reduce the barriers that your donors may have for creating Wills. Over 55% of Canadians don’t have a Will, and there’s plenty of inertia around the hassle of creating or updating Wills that often prevents people from being on top of it. 

One thing that charities can do in this at this point is both educate and share resources for creating and updating Wills. Often charities have sample bequest language for lawyers to use when drafting a Will for a donor, but it ends up being a scenario of “pennies falling from the sky”, as one charity said to us recently. 

For the majority of cases when donors have simple estate requirements, listing additional digital Wills platforms such as Willfora as a resource can go a long way for donors who may not have the time or money to see a lawyer. The landscape is now quickly changing for digital Wills to be the starting point for the majority of Canadians beginning their estate planning journey, which gives testators an easy process to assess whether they require the help of a lawyer to draft their Will. 

By providing a multitude of options for creating or updating Wills that appeal to a wider group of donors and reduce barriers to starting the process, charities also stand to benefit from it through increasing their future income. Even in the cases where a donor creates a Will online and decides they would still like to see a lawyer, at least they can take that document to a lawyer with their gift in it.

While it’s never mandatory for a donor to receive all the benefits of creating digital Wills without leaving a gift, at minimum, this can strengthen a donor's relationship with the charity due to the resource provided to help them with estate planning. Willfora even uses Charity Pages to tag and prompt for a gift on the charity’s behalf, increasing the chances that the donor Will remember the charity in their Will.

If your charity wants to superpower legacy giving through a Charity Page listing, contact us to book a demo.