Gifts in a Will: Four ways to advance a bequest program

If you want to create a structured program or step an existing program up a gear, here are some tips for building a flourishing bequest program.

Bequests are the pinnacle of the fundraising pyramid and for a good reason.

While many fundraisers still find it uncomfortable to talk to a donor about leaving a gift in their Will, helping a supporter decide to leave a lasting legacy that will impact lives long into the future is both an honour and a privilege.

The significance of a structured bequest program is often overlooked in fundraising departments. The time taken to implement a successful bequest program coupled with results being unforecastable within a 12-month budgetary period makes a bequest program one that’s often pushed to the bottom of the to-do list.

While structured programs may provide an indicator of future income, the reality is, a charity won’t ever be able to fully know which of its donors have left a gift in their will. It can be de-motivating slogging away without being able to tick the box of achievement.

That said, a structured bequest program is essential for the following reasons:

One single bequest could change the whole course of the charity

You never know when an estate will come in or its value, which can often be significant. While bequests may be few and far between, their value to the charity is often immeasurable.

Guarantee future income

Ideally, you’ll know some of those who have committed to leaving a gift in their Will while you can still enjoy conversations with them, which will give you an idea for forecasting. Bequests guarantee future income which may not be received for years, but the more donors you can encourage into the program, the more sustainable the charity long into the future.

If you want to create a structured program or step an existing program up a gear, here are some tips for building a flourishing bequest program.

Capture potential bequestors at the early stages

If a donor indicates they may consider leaving you a gift in their Will, tag them on your database and always use appropriate language considering their intention.

Build authentic connections to assure supporters that they are making the right choice by considering you and find out their reasons for choosing your cause so you can refer to it often.

Analyse data

While you can never fully know where your next bequest is coming from, by targeting existing donors you have a better chance of building authentic relationships with potential bequestors.

By analysing the data of previous bequest donors, you can build up a picture of your ideal giver. You can then extract records from your database of those with a similar profile and create a targeted campaign for possible prospects.

It can take years to manage a relationship to turn a prospect or first-time donor into a bequestor. Make good use of data so the donor really feels like you know and care about them to make a big difference.

Segment data

Once you’ve identified a donor as a potential bequestor, it’s essential to get the communication balance right.

You must avoid bombarding them or pressuring them into making a decision (because they may have already left you a gift and not informed you, and you don’t want to annoy them) but you do want to express enough gratitude to those who have left a lasting legacy to help you achieve your mission.

Tag those who have left a gift and those who have indicated they’re considering a gift, and make sure you contact them consistently yet not too aggressively.

Consider holding regular events which you can combine with other programs such as major giving so that gratitude is the theme of the occasion.

Commit to a long-term program

Bequest conversions aren’t usually a fast process so it’s crucial you have a long-term strategy starting from identifying bequest prospects right through to commitment and nurturing the relationship until the estate is finalised.

It’s a bittersweet day for a charity when a bequest is received, particularly if you’ve spent years nurturing the relationship with the supporter. Sadness that a life has ended, but gratitude that a donor has left a lasting impact that will benefit those impacted by your cause for years to come.

It’s a great honour to be included in someone’s will, to find out how SupporterHub can help strengthen your bequest program, sign up today and get four weeks free! Get started

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