What is it advisers know that some fundraisers don’t? The reasons why a donor might change her will. There are several reasons but one of the most salient ones in this time of COVID -19 is that she had or anticipates a change in her life circumstances.
Serving as the Director of Development for a continuing care retirement community reinforced this important point. I learned that donors and prospective donors changed their wills at much later ages than fundraisers might think, even into their 80s and 90s. While not exclusively, such changes were in a number of cases prompted by a change in the donor’s circumstances such as outliving one or more heirs.
Why does this matter to you as a fundraiser? As Dr. Russell James said one of his webinars,
“Every time a donor changes her or his will it provides an opportunity to exclude, or include, a nonprofit.”
What’s a fundraiser to do? To the degree possible, keep in touch with the donors who have already told that they have included you in their estate plans. Unless the person asked to be removed from your mailing list or you know that the individual is no longer cognizant send the newsletter, make a call to see how they are doing, or even consider sending a care package (see my latest newsletter article for more on that topic, you can sign up here to receive a copy).
Do you have a board member who thinks that a donor would never remove your nonprofit from their will? Feel free to share this story. Some years back and I a nonprofit executive visited with a donor to discuss a campaign for which we could accept estate commitments. After we talked about the campaign the donor told us that he had recently removed a nonprofit from his will and would redirect the gift to our organization. Why? Because he had informed the other organization that they were included in his will. However, even after telling the nonprofit about the estate gift he never heard a word from them, no thank you note, no welcome to our legacy society, nothing.
Feeling uncomfortable about mentioning planned giving in these times? Remember your messaging can be subtle. For example, you could simply include two lines on your BRE or on your giving reply card:
___ I have included Your Nonprofit in my will.
___ Please send me information about how to include Your Nonprofit in my will.
Need convincing that just two lines can have an impact? I volunteered with a nonprofit that included these lines on their giving card for years. They nearly removed these lines from their annual gift pledge card because a volunteer said: “Only one person has ever checked the box, this is a waste of time.” After some impact storytelling took place over the next year seven couples/individuals checked one of these boxes. Would you be thrilled if seven new donors told you that they had included you in their estate plans?
Want to know more about planned giving? Feel free to give me a shout out at i5fundraising.com.