How to boost a bequest program to secure the financial future of a charity

During times of economic uncertainty, charities must focus on the top end of the giving pyramid. As we know, there is nothing higher than future planned giving, otherwise known as the bequest program.

During times of economic uncertainty, charities must focus on the top end of the giving pyramid. As we know, there is nothing higher than future planned giving, otherwise known as the bequest program.

Guaranteed future income is the ultimate goal for all donors. The bequest (or gift in wills) program is therefore essential in any financial climate. Without seeing any immediate reward, however, bequests are easily something that can fall by the wayside in favour of more immediate, pressing programs such as appeals and major donors.

Because the fruits of the bequest program can’t be seen immediately, and future budgets can’t accurately reflect the planned income, it’s essential to remain consistent in building the bequest program whatever the financial climate.

Bequest possibilities are endless with every, single donor. While adding people to the structured program isn’t always possible as some may not advise if they’ve left a bequest, the output may not always match the immediate results making consistency seem harder. Be realistic in your approach and think long-term to achieve the best results.

Open up the dialogue early

It can take time to get comfortable with discussing decisions about their will with a donor so you should open up the dialogue right from the start of their relationship with you. This can be as simple as a page on your website or a line on all appeal material asking if they would like to request further information. By the time you come to a one-on-one conversation about the bequest program, potential donors should already be well aware of what it is and how they can support.

Analyse data

Your data is the best source for identifying bequest prospects and must be utilised well. No hard and fast rule states that higher-end donors are those who will leave a bequest. In fact, many small yet consistent donors have gone on to leave significant amounts to charities with no prior indication that they would do so.

Studying available data on those who have already left a bequest will help you identify any typical giving history of a prospect so you can actively target donors who fall into the same or similar category. While not all bequestors are existing donors, in most cases, gifts in a will are likely to come from those who have already supported the cause and built relationships with you. As much insight as you can gather in this area is essential.

Control language

The way you communicate with potential and confirmed bequestors is crucial. Try to avoid official terms such as ‘bequest’ or any legal jargon that may confuse and overwhelm and use words your audience is comfortable with. Be confident in your approach. Of course, it can be confronting to make decisions about how to handle finances after death, so utilising comforting, caring language is a must. Develop language across the board on promotional material and correspondence so donors get to know your brand and what the charity stands for. Also, your use of language can remove the stigma that a gift in a will has to be a significant amount for it to make a difference. Small bequests are just as valuable to an organisation as larger sums.

Analysing data and getting to know potential and current donors will help build your bequest program long into the future. To find out more about our extended FREE trial period,

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