Losing or being in the process of losing several family members and friends this year led me to this topic. As well, being trained to help others write ethical wills or legacy letters played a part. I also share information about this topic with you because between now and 2029 there is a tremendous opportunity for nonprofits to connect with donors about planed giving.
Before I speak about planned giving conversations being about life and legacy I want to thank Dr. Russel James for something he said in Words that Work II: The Phrases that Encourage Planned Giving (published by marketsmart). In case you don’t know him, Dr. James is a former planned giving officer and college president who is now a professor at Texas Tech who teaches about and researches planned giving.
In Words that Work II Dr. James speaks about words and phrases that might strike a positive cord when marketing planned gifts. I want to thank Dr. James for this quote:
“Planned giving decision making is all about your supporters’ life stories and how your organization’s mission entwines with them.”
Over the years I made it a point to understand as much as possible about various forms of gifts. While I am not an attorney or financial planner, I can generally hold my own when speaking about CGAs, CRATS, CRUTS, and even lead trusts.
However, I believe that I became a far more productive partner in the planned giving process after I participated in training that enabled me to help others write legacy letters and ethical wills.
Learning how to help people define and outline their legacies required that I write my own legacy letter. I thought about what I would want people to know and remember about me beyond what is on my resume.
However, it’s one thing to write our own story, where and how do we begin a conversation with a prospective planned giving donor about their legacy? Dr. Russell speaks about getting to know the narratives of our donors, I could not agree more.
Before approaching a prospective planned giving prospect about their legacy or a legacy gift consider:
- Asking if you might meet to thank them for their current gifts
- And learn more about what led them to make those gifts.
- If the person has been particularly loyal you might say that you would appreciate learning what promoted them to be so supportive for so long.
Note that I have yet to say anything about planned giving or giving vehicles. Nor have I suggested asking the person about their legacy. This is a first step, just as this is a first article. Next time I will write about how you might encourage donors and prospective donors to reflect on their legacies. Yet another post will focus on how to connect legacy stories with planned giving.
In the interim, I welcome hearing about ways in which you have made planned giving conversations focus on life and legacy. I look forward to hearing from you because we can all learn from one another.
Sophie W. Penney is President of i5 Fundraising